China, ASEAN to begin talks on COC text
China and Southeast Asian nations will start consultations on the text of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in Manila on Monday.
Li was in the Philippines where a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was held. Li made the remarks at the 20th ChinaASEAN (10+1) leaders’ meeting. China hopes that the COC could be adopted at an early date and serve as a “stabilizer” in the South China Sea, the Xinhua News Agency quoted the Chinese premier as saying. At an ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in August, China and ASEAN countries
drew up and approved the framework of the COC, saying they would initiate substantive consultations on the code’s text within the year.
“Just like what Premier Li said, the COC is a ‘stabilizer,’ and we hope it can ensure peace and stability in the region, but it’s not made for solving all disputes. China and ASEAN members who have claims in the South China Sea still have some differences,” said Xu Liping, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ National Institute of International Strategy.
“For instance, is the COC legally binding? If it is, who is responsible for law enforcement? This is a question that has to be answered, and China and some other claimant countries of the South China Sea involved in the COC negotiations have differences on this,” Xu told the Global Times.
The Philippines also shares the same concern. The Manila Times quoted Philippine foreign affairs secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as saying that China was being practical in proposing a non-binding COC.
Cayetano explained that a legally binding COC would be problematic because “ASEAN and China would have to agree on who would impose the penalties in the event any of the signatories violate its provisions.”
Due to the intervention of non-regional forces and different positions held by claimant countries, the final agreement needs time to be approved, but we hope that during the negotiations, China and ASEAN countries can push for pragmatic cooperation in the South China Sea at the same time, Xu Liping said.
Filipino and Chinese coast guards have established roundthe-clock direct communication to promote cooperation in the South China Sea.
This, according to the Philippine Coast Guard, means that when they meet in the said sea, “they would be able to communicate with each other in a timely, friendly and cooperative manner,” Manila Bulletin reported on Monday.
Sell goods to China
Aside from the South China Sea, topics such as cyber economy were also discussed at the China-ASEAN leaders’ meeting.
According to the Straits Times, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said “ASEAN can learn from China in the areas of fintech, e-commerce and smart cities” at the meeting on Monday.
“People from Southeast Asia are able to buy Chinese products easily through China’s e-commerce platforms. Therefore, ASEAN countries also want to find opportunities for their people to more conveniently sell goods to China,” said Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.
“This requires ASEAN countries to meet China’s standards in many areas, including logistics, infrastructure and Internet service, but different ASEAN countries have different conditions, so we need more time to make cyber economy benefit all ASEAN members,” Bai told the Global Times.
Police hose down protesters as they try to march to the venue of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila on Monday, which is also attended by US President Donald Trump. World leaders are in the Philippine capital for two days of summits.