Monday, November 12, 2018

ASEAN: Recent militarization in S. China Sea 'erodes trust, confidence'

By Luchi de Guzman, CNN Philippines
Regional leaders expressed concern over the militarization of contested areas in the South China Sea, as the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore drew to a close.
"We discussed the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some Leaders 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," the leaders said, in the ASEAN Chairman's statement issued Saturday.
Apart from the Philippines and China, ASEAN states Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand also have claims in parts of the South China Sea.
Last February, local news outfit released photos of China's continued construction of air and naval structures in the contested Spratly group of islands.
"We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states," the statement read.
ASEAN leaders stressed the need for the implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety, for there to be mutual trust between parties and the pursuit of a peaceful resolution in the conflict in accordance to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The DOC is a 2002 document meant to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the maritime conflict in the disputed areas.
"We warmly welcomed the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China and were encouraged by the official commencement of the substantive negotiations toward the early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on a mutually-agreed timeline," said the statement.
During the ASEAN meeting, President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines held bilateral talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
When the Vietnamese leader raised the South China Sea issue, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte told Phuc he is not "abandoning, ignoring, or setting aside" the landmark arbitral ruling that invalidated China's claims over most of South China Sea.
"He made it very clear to a head of state that he recognizes the gains of the arbitral award and that he will refer to the arbitral award in due course," Roque told reporters in Singapore, the summit's venue.
The Chinese government, however, believes it has the right to build structures in the disputed areas.
"The Nansha Islands are China's territory," said Chinese Ministry of Defense Spokesperson Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang in a statement on April 11. The Nansha Islands is the Chinese name for the Spratlys.



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