ASEAN, China Agree on South China Sea’s Code of Conduct Guidelines
Jakarta. ASEAN and China have agreed on a guideline document that is set to speed up the negotiations on the overdue code of conduct -- commonly shortened as the COC -- for the disputed South China Sea.
Both the Southeast Asian bloc and China reached a consensus on the guideline at a ministerial-level meeting in Jakarta on Thursday. Wang Yi, who is leading the Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission, represented China during the talks. China’s Foreign Affairs Minister Qin Gang is skipping the forum due to health reasons.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the guideline became one of the key milestones that ASEAN-China achieved this year. This guideline is expected to pave the way for effective and substantive COC negotiations. Other milestones also include the second reading of the single draft COC negotiations texts.
“These achievements should continue to build positive momentum to bolster partnership that advances the paradigm of inclusivity and openness, respects international law, promotes habits of dialogue and collaboration," Retno said during the ASEAN-China meeting.
Retno on Wednesday evening spoke with China on the long-awaited COC. Earlier that day, Retno had met Wang Yi for a bilateral talk, as well as a three-way dialogue with Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“Our bilateral talks with China mostly focused on economic cooperation. We also discussed ASEAN matters, particularly our agreement on a guideline to expedite COC negotiations,” Retno told reporters, commenting on the two-way meeting with Wang Yi.
The South China Sea has some of the world’s busiest maritime waterways and abundant resources. China as well as four ASEAN members -- Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam -- have all laid overlapping claims to the strategic body of water.
In 1992, ASEAN agreed on a declaration that emphasized the necessity to resolve all sovereignty and jurisdictional issues in the South China Sea by peaceful means. A decade later, China and ASEAN issued a non-binding declaration of conduct (DOC) in the economically important waterway. The DOC called for the adoption of a code of conduct, which has yet to see the light of day.