Asean, China to start talks on code of conduct over sea dispute

Bandera (Mindanao) - - FRONT PAGE -

THE leaders of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China are set to announce on Monday the beginning of talks over the long-overdue code of conduct (COC) on the disputed South China Sea (SCS), citing the importance of maintaining stability in the region.

In a draft statement obtained by Inquirer.net, the Asean and China are expected to adopt “in its entirety” the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the disputed waters adopted by the foreign ministers of Asean member countries and China in August.

According to the document, the Asean is “pleased to announce that as a next step, Asean Member States have agreed to officially commence negotiations with China on the COC.”

“While the situation is calmer now, we cannot take the current progress for granted. [It is] important that we cooperate to maintain peace, stability, freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the SCS, in accordance with international law, including the 1982 [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea],” the draft statement also read.

“It is in our collective interest to avoid miscalculations that could lead to escalation of tensions. We therefore reiterate our commitment to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SCS (DOC) in its entirety.”

The details of the framework are still unknown as it has not been made public yet.

The Asean welcomed the developments between the bloc and China on the issue, calling it an “important milestone” in the parties’ relation.

"Trust that we will continue this positive momentum and work towards a substantive and effective COC,” the draft statement noted.

The Asean also said it is looking forward to the “early conclusion” of the COC.

The statement is expected to be read at the 20th Asean-China summit to be attended by leaders of the Asean member states with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The meet is part of the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summit currently being held in different venues in Manila.

The call for the Asean and China to come up with a COC has increased as tensions arise between and among the states—including Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei—claiming parts of the disputed sea, which China wholly claims.

The Philippine has questioned China’s expansive claims in the disputed sea before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague and scored a victory against China.

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