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China unveils $474M maritime cooperation fund with ASEAN amid territorial disputes

Officials say China has offered a 3 billion yuan ($474 million) maritime cooperation fund with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, some of whose members have territorial disputes with Beijing.

Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh said China announced the fund Friday at the inaugural maritime forum of ASEAN and eight of its partners, including Japan, China, South Korea and the U.S.

Pham says ASEAN and China are discussing possible activities to finance. ASEAN and China cooperate in maritime issues including navigation safety, biodiversity and search and rescue.

Tensions have flared over claims by China, the Philippines and Vietnam to South China Sea islands and waters believed to be rich in gas and oil. ASEAN members Brunei and Malaysia also have been embroiled in South China Sea rifts.