By Francis Wakefield
The Department of National Defense (DND) said the agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to begin discussions on the Code of Conduct on issues concerning the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) is a positive step towards achieving a peaceful, stable, and secure region.
During an interview, DND Public Affairs chief Arsenio Andolong, said aside from being a significant milestone, it is an indication that ASEAN and China are focusing on deeper cooperation rather than confrontation.
“This augurs well for all parties (concerned),” Andolong said
The 10 leaders of ASEAN have already agreed to officially begin negotiations for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea “while the situation is calmer now.”
The ASEAN leaders said the framework of the COC, which was adopted in Manila last August 6, was “an important milestone.”
With the adoption of the framework, ASEAN leaders said they look forward to an early conclusion of substantive and effective COC, without providing specific details on when the negotiation should take place.
What is important, according to the ASEAN leaders’ draft statement, is “that we cooperate to maintain peace, stability, freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the SCS, in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.”
“It is in our collective interest to avoid miscalculations that could lead to escalation of tensions,” they said.
The Philippines will act as “country coordinator” for the ASEAN-China Summit next year with the assumption of Singapore as the next chair of the regional block.
China, meanwhile, will begin discussions with the ASEAN on the fine print of a Code of Conduct (COC) for the disputed South China Sea in a move that will stabilize the region, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said.
Tags: Arsenio Andolong, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, code of conduct, Department of National Defense, discussions, DND calls ASEAN-China discussions positive step towards regional peace, Manila Bulletin, South China Sea