South China Sea Code of Con­duct talks will sta­bi­lize re­gion – Pre­mier Li

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - By REUTERS, GENALYN D. KABILING, and ROY C. MABASA

China will be­gin dis­cus­sions with the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) on the fine print of a Code of Con­duct (COC) for the dis­puted South China Sea in a move that will sta­bi­lize the re­gion, Chi­nese

Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang said.

“China’s great­est hope is for peace and sta­bil­ity in the South China Sea,” Li told ASEAN lead­ers in Manila. A tran­script of his speech was re­leased by China’s For­eign Min­istry yes­ter­day.

“We hope the talks on the code of con­duct will bol­ster mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and trust. We will strive un­der the agree­ment, to reach a con­sen­sus on achiev­ing early im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Code of Con­duct,” Li, ad­dress­ing lead­ers of ASEAN in Manila on Mon­day, said.

He said there was a con­sen­sus on mov­ing for­ward to try to peace­fully re­solve the thorny is­sue.

Crit­ics say the agree­ment to talk on the de­tails of the COC is only an in­cre­men­tal move, with a fi­nal agree­ment not likely any­time soon. De­spite a pe­riod of rel­a­tive sta­bil­ity in the South China Sea, some coun­tries at the sum­mit said this shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The frame­work seeks to ad­vance a 2002 Dec­la­ra­tion of Con­duct (DOC) of Par­ties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ig­nored by claimant states, par­tic­u­larly China, which has built seven man-made is­lands in dis­puted waters, three of which are equipped with run­ways, sur­face-to-air mis­siles, and radars.

All par­ties say the frame­work is only an out­line for how the code will be es­tab­lished. Crit­ics say the fail­ure to out­line pro­vi­sions to make the code legally bind­ing and en­force­able, and have a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion mech­a­nism, raises doubts about how ef­fec­tive the pact will be.

Sign­ing China up to a legally bind­ing and en­force­able code for the strate­gic wa­ter­way has long been a goal for claimant mem­bers of ASEAN, some of which have sparred for years over what they see as China’s dis­re­gard for their sov­er­eign rights and its block­ing of fish­er­men and en­ergy ex­plo­ration ef­forts.

Malaysia, Tai­wan, Brunei, Viet­nam, and the Philip­pines claim some or all of the South China Sea and its myr­iad shoals, reefs, and is­lands.

Agree to ne­go­ti­ate The 10 lead­ers of ASEAN have al­ready agreed to of­fi­cially be­gin ne­go­ti­a­tions for the Code of Con­duct in the South China Sea “while the sit­u­a­tion is calmer now.”

The ASEAN lead­ers said the frame­work of the COC, which was adopted in Manila last Au­gust 6, was “an im­por­tant mile­stone.”

With the adop­tion of the frame­work, ASEAN lead­ers said they look for­ward to an early con­clu­sion of sub­stan­tive and ef­fec­tive COC, with­out pro­vid­ing spe­cific de­tails on when the ne­go­ti­a­tion should take place.

What is im­por­tant, ac­cord­ing to the ASEAN lead­ers’ draft state­ment, is “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 UNCLOS.”

‘It is in our col­lec­tive in­ter­est to avoid mis­cal­cu­la­tions that could lead to es­ca­la­tion of ten­sions,” they said.

The Philip­pines will act as “coun­try co­or­di­na­tor” for the ASEAN-China Sum­mit next year with the as­sump­tion of Sin­ga­pore as the next chair of the re­gional bloc.

Marine re­sources pro­tec­tion

Mean­while, the 10-mem­ber ASEAN and China also vowed to en­sure the pro­tec­tion of the coastal and marine re­sources in the South China Sea in the next 10 years pend­ing ef­forts to set­tle the con­flict in the dis­puted ter­ri­tory.

In the “Dec­la­ra­tion for a Decade of Coastal and Marine En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion in the South China Sea (20172027),” the lead­ers agreed that the en­vi­ron­men­tal sit­u­a­tion in the area re­quires “col­lec­tive at­ten­tion and ac­tion to pro­tect the marine ecosys­tem and bio­di­ver­sity.”

The two-page doc­u­ment was re­leased af­ter the ASEAN lead­ers led by Pres­i­dent Duterte held a sum­mit with Chi­nese Pre­mier Li last Mon­day.

In the dec­la­ra­tion, the lead­ers rec­og­nized “the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing the South China Sea as a nat­u­ral re­source base for eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment for the present and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and rec­og­niz­ing the ben­e­fits that would be gained from hav­ing the South China Sea as a sea of peace, sta­bil­ity and pros­per­ity.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.