Asean, China expect ‘single draft’ document for South China Sea code in 2019
SINGAPORE — Members states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China are hopeful that the single draft document to negotiate the code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea would be completed by 2019.
In a common statement read by President Rodrigo Duterte during the Asean-China Summit here on Wednesday, Southeast Asian leaders and China reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability in the South China Sea as tensions continue to grip the disputed waterway amid Beijing’s aggressive militarization and reclamation.
“Asean and China have seen steady progress in the initial phase of the COC negotiations since the announcement of a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, and looked forward to the completion of the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text by 2019,” Duterte said.
In the absence of a sea code, he said “Asean and China are committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety and the expeditious conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).”
He added that Asean and China, would “continue to maintain a conducive environment for future rounds of negotiations of the COC.”
“As co-chair of the COC negotiations, the Philippines will continue to work closely together with the Asean Member States and China for the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC,” he said.
He added that “Asean and China continue to reaffirm the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight.”
“We also reaffirm the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue a peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” he said.
In August, Singapore foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Asean and China agreed to put everything down in a single draft as the basis for future negotiations.
“This does not mean negotiations are over, but it is meant to generate a code of conduct that would ensure peace, stability, confidence so that we can continue to make collective progress,” Vivian said.
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