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Thursday, June 20, 2024

ASEAN, China rushing draft of code of conduct on SCS

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Phonom Penh, Cambodia—The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China reaffirmed their aspiration to hasten the second draft of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea (SCS), said ASEAN Secretary General Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lim said negotiations for the COC in the SCS, also known as West Philippine Sea (WPS), was delayed.

“Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, a lot of it have been delayed,” Lim said during the 11th Editors’ Roundtable organized by the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and Khmer Times here.

Despite these challenges, Lim stressed that ASEAN member-states, as well as China have exerted efforts to resume the negotiation of COC.

The ASEAN official also cited initiatives to maintain the momentum of work including utilizing virtual platform and video conferences, among others.

He also said the ‘working group’ on COC has resumed in-person negotiations last May in Seem Reap, Cambodia.
He added that a post-minister conference was held also in Cambodia last August.

COC negotiations and work, Lim said, was geared toward an early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC.
This is consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

“I think we are done with the first draft (of the COC in South China Sea). We are going to the second (draft), he said.

The one-day conference was attended by members of the media from ASEAN countries like Australia,  Brunei, Cambodia, China Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said that the ASEAN and China have completed the “first reading” of the COC negotiating text, which has been modified for smoother negotiations.

“We hope that negotiations on the COC’s 2nd draft will continue in physical manner as we are able to open our economy,” said the ASEAN leader.

“Work in progress and I hope that this can be done in expeditious manner,” he said.

In the meantime, the ASEAN official gave assurance that the group will continue to work with China with due attention to the confidence-building and preventive measures (to avoid conflicts among claimants).

He believes this would enhance the trust and confidence among parties in order to provide conducive environment for the COC negotiation.

Aside from the Philippines, the other primary claimants of the SCS or WPS which are members of ASEAN are Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Beijing has been asserting that the SCS or WPS belongs to China.

The completion of the code as supported by the United States and other Western and Asian governments not involved in the territorial conflicts, will avert armed confrontations in the territorial disputes.

The code is expected to be a regional framework that establishes rules and standards for regional peace and stability amid several long-running and escalating disputes.

The reputedly oil-rich South China Sea is a vital sea lane where oil and natural gas.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague has ruled in favor of the Philippines in a maritime dispute over the contested WPS, rejecting China’s hardline stance of its historic rights to the bulk of the SCS.

Chinese President Xi Jinping strongly rejected the international court ruling.

The PCA concluded China doesn’t have the right to resources within its “nine-dash line,” which extends hundreds of miles to the south and east of its island province of Hainan and covers some 90% of the disputed waters.
China never participated in the arbitration initiated by the Philippine government in 2013.

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