ASEAN stresses self-restraint, non-militarization in South China Sea

Posted August 07, 2017

The issue of Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions has also been commented on by diplomatic sources, some of them likely from Asean member states, who claim that the Asean foreign ministers' statement on the developments in the Korean Peninsula are a rehash of what was issued last April.

The meetings will take place as the United Nations Security Council votes this weekend on a US-drafted resolution to toughen sanctions against North Korea to punish the isolated regime for its missile tests.

"We warmly welcomed the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China and are encouraged by the conclusion and adoption of the framework of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which will facilitate the work for the conclusion of an effective COC on a mutually-agreed timeline", the foreign ministers said.

Clearly, the 50-year-old Asean has to evolve into a true regional bloc by developing a unified voice that reflects the aspirations of a genuine Asean Economic Community and its population of more than 600 million, not the vested interest of a single member state alone that panders in turn to the interest of any purveyor of influence and lucre aspiring to dominate the larger Asian region.

Foreign ministers in Manila over the weekend emphasized self-restraint in the South China Sea and reaffirmed their countries' commitment to a Code of Conduct in the region.

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Aside from the Philippines, ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and and Vietnam have claims over parts of the South China Sea.

As an important regional organization, ASEAN has become a major force in promoting regional integration and maintaining regional peace and stability, Wang said.

China has continued island-building and militarization activities in the disputed waters, setting aside an worldwide arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims in the region.

With regard to the different opinions being raised against China, which seemed bent on militarizing the South China Sea despite a ruling by the International Tribunal, Wang said China does not comment on which individual country or countries have raised the issue.

However, the agreement did not stop China from building military structures over disputed islands.

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But, since President Rodrigo Duterte was elected previous year, the Philippines has sought to downplay the dispute with China in return for billions of dollars in Chinese investments and aid.

"The leaders of ASEAN and China are expected to announce the formal start of negotiations on the code at their summit in November", Bolivar told reporters.

"There is no consensus yet", the diplomat said, adding the drafting committee was tasked with continuing the negotiations on Saturday night.

A joint working group is set to meet in late August to "discuss modalities for the negotiations of the actual code of conduct", said Bolivar.

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