Direct bilateral dialogue 'best way to solve disputes'

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Yang said the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and ASEAN member countries in 2002 has

played a good role in containing regional conflicts and will see high-level meetings when conditions are mature. In the declaration, the countries pledged to "exercise restraint, and not to make it an international issue or multilateral issue."

"Channels of discussion are there, and they are open and smooth," Yang said.

A dozen Asian delegates went up to Yang after his speech, saying that Yang's remarks offered a clear explanation of China's policy toward the South China Sea issue.

Su Hao, a researcher on Asia-Pacific studies with the Beijing-based China Foreign Affairs University, said there have been many "subtle changes" in the South China Sea issue in the past year, with countries including Vietnam becoming much tougher and Washington moving away from its previous low-profile tone.

"I'm sure the US is the basic reason for the change - it is supporting the other sides," Su said.

"During a recent visit to Vietnam, I told a Vietnamese officer with diplomatic background that our late leader Deng Xiaoping had said 'since we can't solve the South China Sea issue, we can leave it to the next generation which will be smarter'," he said.

The officer told Su that that is why they have to solve it now.

"The deteriorating situation is not China's fault," Su said.

Shi Zhan, an international studies researcher at China Foreign Affairs University, said the US is also re-flexing its muscles in the South China Sea partly because of the resources in the area.

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