The dispute over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea should be handled at the ASEAN Regional Forum, Philippine Foreign Minister Domingo Siazon said May 16, according to Foreign Ministry officials.

Siazon made the comment during a meeting with Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda, who supported the idea. ASEAN will hold its annual meeting in July.

The Spratlys are claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

They are believed to be located atop oil and gas deposits, and ASEAN countries — Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam — are said to be concerned with China’s aggressiveness toward the islands.

China is likely to reject the idea because the communist country prefers bilateral negotiations.

At last year’s forum, participants did not go into details on the issue, simply declaring instead that “the meeting welcomed the efforts by countries concerned to seek solutions by peaceful means in accordance with international law in general.”

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