Asean urges non-militarization, self-restraint in South China Sea
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) reiterated its call for non-militarization and self-restraint in the South China Sea amid Beijing’s reclamation activities and apparent arming of artificial islands in the disputed waters.
The regional bloc issued the call in The Chairman’s statement for the 31st Asean Summit which was released Thursday.
In the statement, Asean “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, maritime safety and security, rules-based order and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.”
“We further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC (Declaration of Conduct) that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” the statement read.
There was no direct mention of China in the statement or the reported militarization of its man-made islands.
It did not mention the United Nations arbitral ruling that negated the Nine-Dash Line claim of China to virtually all of the South China Sea, but referred to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“(We) stressed the need to adhere to the peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law and the (UNCLOS),” the statements said.
Asean member states took note of the improving relations of Asean with China and “are encouraged by the adoption of the framework of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea (COC), which will facilitate the work and negotiation for the conclusion of a substantive and effective COC (Code of Conduct).”
“In view of this positive momentum, we looked forward to the announcement of the start of substantive negotiations on the COC with China at the 20th Asean-China Summit and the subsequent convening of the 23rd Asean-China Joint Working Group Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC in Vietnam in early 2018,” the statement said.
The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the full implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
“(We) reaffirmed our commitment to the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety, and the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, chairman of the 31st Asean Summit, earlier said that China had assured him of its commitment to the right of safe passage through the disputed territories.
Duterte said Chinese President Xi Jinping assured him: “Do not worry. You have all the rights of safe passage and that would be also applicable to all countries.”
The Philippine and Chinese leaders had a bilateral meeting at the close of the Asia-Pacific Economic (Apec) in Vietnam during which Duterte raised the issue of the South China Sea. /jpv
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