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Asean mulling joint statement on South China Sea

/ 05:11 PM June 10, 2016

JAKARTA, Indonesia—The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is likely to issue a joint statement on the South China Sea in response to an upcoming verdict on the Philippines’ arbitration case against China on the disputed territories, an official said on Thursday.

“As the leading organization in the region, with interests in the South China Sea, it would be strange if Asean didn’t have a viewpoint,” Indonesia Foreign Ministry’s Asean dialogue partner and inter-regional cooperation director, Derry Aman, told journalists on Thursday.

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However, the regional organization’s mechanism requires that all 10 member countries reach consensus before declaring a unified stance on the issue, he added.

Several Asean countries are involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Indonesia is not a claimant to the surrounding waters of the resource-rich Natuna Islands.

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READ: China reclamation violates Asean code, says DND

The regional organization will conduct a special ministerial meeting with China between June 13 to 14, ahead of the upcoming verdict on the Philippines’ South China Sea case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.

When asked if the joint statement would be raised with China next week, Derry said that as consensus had not yet been reached, talks would remain between Asean member nations at this point.

“The process to reach a common understanding on a possible statement is still ongoing,” he said.

China, for its part has already said it would ignore the PCA ruling.

READ: Carpio: 3 possible scenarios in South China Sea arbitration ruling

As a non-claimant country, Indonesia has continued to stress the importance of restraint from all parties involved in order to maintain peace and security.  Any drastic reaction could raise suspicions and pressure others to also take action in response, Deryy said.

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“Dispute settlement must be conducted peacefully, without show of force and in full respect of diplomatic and legal processes,” he added.

Indonesia has continued to push for the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which includes an ongoing draft code of conduct that Indonesia was prioritizing, he further said.

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TAGS: arbitration, ASEAN, China, Derry Aman, Indonesia, Philippines, sea row, South China Sea, territorial dispute, United Nations
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