China and ASEAN show they will not be im­peded

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

In a sig­nif­i­cant step to­ward build­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in the South China Sea and the re­gion at large, the for­eign min­is­ters of China and the 10 mem­bers of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions en­dorsed the frame­work for a Code of Con­duct in the wa­ters in Manila on Sun­day. It once again un­der­scores the strong po­lit­i­cal will of China and the ASEAN coun­tries to work to­gether to main­tain sta­bil­ity in the South China Sea and sus­tain the pos­i­tive mo­men­tum they have es­tab­lished in their re­la­tions.

The draw­ing up of a frame­work out­line for the pro­posed code of be­hav­ior de­signed to pre­vent clashes in the South China Sea has been a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment. And as Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi pointed out in Manila, the agree­ment on the frame­work has laid a solid foun­da­tion for sub­stan­tive con­sul­ta­tions on the Code of Con­duct.

With their joint ef­forts to reach agree­ment, China and the mem­bers of ASEAN have also sent a strong mes­sage to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity that they are fully ca­pa­ble of han­dling is­sues of com­mon con­cern in the re­gion with­out any in­ter­fer­ence from a third party.

For while China and ASEAN are look­ing to the fu­ture and seek­ing new prospects from work­ing to­gether for peace, sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity, some coun­tries out­side the re­gion seem in­tent on stir­ring up trou­ble and stok­ing ten­sions in the South China Sea.

This year, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has con­tin­ued the con­tro­ver­sial prac­tice of his pre­de­ces­sor and sent war­ships to the wa­ters un­der the du­plic­i­tous pre­text that such a show of force is to safe­guard the free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion of com­mer­cial ship­ping.

The United States likes to ac­cuse Bei­jing of try­ing to mil­i­ta­rize the South China Sea, but it is the US and its close al­lies that are do­ing that: The United King­dom be­ing the lat­est to jump on the free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion band­wagon by propos­ing to send war­ships to the South China Sea next year.

If th­ese out­side forces re­ally cared about free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion they would be sup­port­ing China and ASEAN’s ef­forts to pro­mote peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion rather than try­ing to un­der­mine them.

To give sub­stance to their words, they should join hands with China and ASEAN to safe­guard and build on the hard-won pos­i­tive mo­men­tum so that the South China Sea is a se­away for peace, friend­ship and co­op­er­a­tion.

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