Wednesday, November 21, 2018

ASEAN emphasizes importance of non-militarization, self-restraint in South China Sea

   At the 33rd ASEAN Summit on 13 November 2018 in Singapore, heads of state/government of ASEAN member states reached consensus on further developing the ASEAN Community on three pillars, namely political-security, economic and socio-cultural, while emphasizing the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities in the South China Sea.

7 documents adopted

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the ASEAN Leaders' Vision for a Resilient and Innovative ASEAN. At the summit, they adopted 7 documents at the summit, including ASEAN Smart Cities Framework; ASEAN Declaration on Promoting Green Jobs for Equity and Inclusive Growth of ASEAN Community; ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change to the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); ASEAN Joint Statement to the Fourteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity; ASEAN Declaration on the Adoption of the ASEAN Youth in Climate Action and Disaster Resilience Day; and Declaration on the Guidelines on Consular Assistance by ASEAN Member States' Missions in Third Countries to Nationals of Other ASEAN Member States.

ASEAN leaders underscored the importance of strengthening ASEAN Centrality and unity in the ASEAN Community-building efforts and engagement with the block's external partners. They reiterated their commitment to a rules-based regional architecture that is open, transparent and inclusive, building on ASEAN-led mechanisms including the ASEAN Plus One, ASEAN Plus Three (APT), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus).
ASEAN leaders reaffirmed their shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung told reporters that leaders at the 33rd ASEAN Summit, summits between ASEAN and China, Japan, South Korea, the US, Russia, Australia, and India, the ASEAN Plus 3 meeting with China, Japan and South Korea, the East Asia Summit, and the meeting of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) member states adopted a total of 63 documents to lay a foundation for ASEAN cooperation and its collaboration with partner countries in the fields of politics, security, economy, and socio-culture in coming years.

COC negotiations to be concluded in next 3 years?

Regarding China's proposal to conclude the negotiations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) within the next three years, the deputy minister said the negotiations need a favorable environment towards reaching a practical and effective COC in compliance with international law and the UNCLOS, making effective contributions to peace, stability and security in the region in general and in the sea in particular.
On November 15, after the conclusion of the 33rd ASEAN Summit, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had a bilateral meeting, reaffirming to maintain freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. "Both leaders also discussed issues pertaining to the disputed South China Sea, during which President Duterte stressed the Philippines' commitment to uphold the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight, freedom of commerce and other lawful activities, exercise of self-restraint, and the peaceful resolution of disputes,' stated Philippine presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
On November 16, US Vice President Mike Pence on November 16 called on ASEAN to soon finalize an effective and binding COC.
Most of ASEAN partners have pledged to join hands in creating a favorable environment for dialogue, cooperation and trust building in a bid to turn the sea into a sea of peace, cooperation and development through the effective and practical negotiations on the COC based on international law, including UNCLOS. At the 33rd ASEAN Summit, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also affirmed that China will continue working with ASEAN in completing the COC within the next three years and in fully implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), thus contributing to peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation, and free trade in the sea.

ASEAN voices concern

However, ASEAN leaders voiced concern about the land reclamations and militarization in the South China Sea. "We discussed the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of some concerns on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,' reads the Chairman's Statement of the 33rd ASEAN Summit
The ASEAN leaders reaffirmed 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 peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the UNCLOS. "We emphasised the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,' the chairman's statement reads./.



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