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Indian envoy says South China Sea freedom of navigation should be preserved

All News 17:34 April 29, 2016

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- The territorial dispute involving China's claim to the South China Sea should be resolved in a way that helps preserve freedom of navigation, although India takes no particular position with any of the countries in the row, New Delhi's ambassador to South Korea said Friday.

"As one of the most important maritime arteries, it is important that whatever is done ensures that freedom of navigation is preserved," India's Ambassador to South Korea Vikram Doraiswami said in a lecture hosted by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

The ambassador stressed that regarding the dispute, the point more important than the sovereignty issue is "whether the countries of the region... can find a solution that enables the international community to continue to benefit from these waterways remaining open and free for all to use."

Still, India takes no particular position on the territorial dispute "on which we believe we don't have competence to make a judgment," the top diplomat said, trying to shake off any insinuations.

"We recognize that there is a legal process underway and we will wait for whatever judgment comes along," he said referring to a related ruling to be made by a panel of jurists at a United Nations-designated tribunal in the next several weeks.

Touching on South Korea and the United States' moves to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery, a sophisticated air defense shield, the ambassador said "South Korea is a sovereign country... and it is a matter of Seoul to decide upon."

"We trust what the Korean government will do will be in the interest of Korea and Korean security," he said.

Doraiswami also invited more South Korean companies to increase cooperation in the defense sector.

"We see Korean defense production partners as being perfectly welcome in our market without there being any reservations about their presence," the ambassador said. "Korea has skills in areas where we specifically need them," he said, citing naval guns and warships as areas where there is room to expand cooperation.

He said in the next three to six months' time South Korea and India will announce some big defense deals, although he did not specify what they will be.

Touching on the North Korean foreign minister's visit to India in April last year, he also said India made it clear to Pyongyang that "the (bilateral) cooperation will essentially be circumscribed by what is permissible under international rules and U.N. Security Council resolutions."

"In other words, we are not going to do anything outside of UNSC resolutions," he noted.


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