ASEAN ministers endorse framework code in South China Sea

Posted August 10, 2017

The ASEAN-China meeting was part of a flurry of one-to-one meetings held Sunday between foreign ministers from the Southeast Asian bloc and top diplomats from other countries including Japan, the United States, India and Russian Federation.

Addressing Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh said that ASEAN occupies a central place in the security architecture of the Asia-Pacific region and the ability to harmonize larger interests of the world beyond it.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the move created a solid foundation for negotiations that could start this year if "the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and on the premise that there is no major interference from outside parties". Under the circumstances, Kono called for the ASEAN members' cooperation for a peaceful solution to the South China Sea issues, by explaining Japan's position at Sunday's meeting, sources with access to the talks said.

When the communique was issued later, the ASEAN ministers surprisingly defied China's stance with indirect criticism of Beijing's land reclamation and military fortifications in the disputed waters.

The top diplomats of the US, Australia and Japan also called on their Southeast Asian counterparts to negotiate a legally binding COC in the disputed waters.

They called on China and the Philippines to abide by an arbitration ruling previous year that invalidated much of China's territorial claim to the South China Sea, which is claimed in part by Taiwan and ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

It said that after extensive discussions, concerns were voiced by some members about land reclamation "and activities in the area which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tension and may undermine peace, security and stability".

A code of conduct has always been discussed, with both sides agreeing in 2002 on a loose set of guidelines known as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the region. "I look forward to attending the Grand ceremony on 8th August to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Bangkok Declaration which gave rise to ASEAN", he added.

The Philippines' capital Manila is now hosting the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings on August 2-8, bringing together the heads of foreign offices from 27 states. "I mean it's really very insubstantial anyway", Mr Batongbacal said, expressing doubt that Asean and China will be able to come up with anything concrete in the next few years.

The Philippines scored a major legal victory past year, when an global tribunal in the Hague threw out most of China's territorial claims, but since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila has become less confrontational with Beijing. But he claimed that Xi threatened him with war if he went ahead with implementing those plans.