Jakarta. Indonesia is hosting a workshop on the South China Sea this week, as part of the government's efforts to promote mutual understanding and build trust between the various countries contesting the disputed waters.
"Indonesia believes the South China Sea region must be managed through cooperation among concerned parties, in order to mitigate tensions," Deputy Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir said during the opening of the 27th Workshop on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea in Jakarta on Thursday (16/11).
Indonesia initiated the mechanism in 1990 to explore opportunities for cooperation among countries in the region. This year, Brunei Darussalam, China, the Philippines, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan are participating in the two-day workshop.
Fachir said the workshop has promoted "mutual understanding among the participants through constructive dialog and concrete cooperation projects."
"For 27 years, the workshop has acted as a prime catalyst to fortify the negotiation process, by maintaining constructive engagement of the parties in the dispute," he said.
Participating countries are now involved in various technical cooperation projects that have largely focused on the environment, including marine and scientific research and marine database exchange and networking.
Noting that there is still much to accomplish in order to resolve the dispute in the South China Sea, Fachir said the countries involved must "reinvigorate" their shared commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the region.
Member states of the Association of Southeast Asean Nations (Asean) and China have yet to conclude their negotiations on a code of conduct on the South China Sea.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, while Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines also claim parts of the strategic waters.
While the legal nature of the code of conduct remains unclear, Siswo Pramono, head of policy analysis and development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Indonesia will continue to push for the final document to be legally binding.
Siswo emphasized that the differing national interests between concerned parties in the South China Sea dispute must be resolved through constructive political dialog, which he believes Asean has done through the organization's many forums. This includes the Asean Regional Forum and East Asia Summit.
"Asean is an effective mechanism to handle this complex issue […] The bloc's strong regional architecture has resulted in economic interdependence," Siswo told reporters.
He added that this dependence on each other's market to promote economic growth has created a conducive environment in which negotiations can take place, not just between Asean member countries, but also with China and Taiwan, both of which must consider the bloc's economic potential for their own respective growth as well.