By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
SINGAPORE—Member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are hopeful that the single draft document for the code of conduct (code of conduct) in the South China Sea would be completed by 2019.
In a common statement read by President Duterte, Southeast Asian leaders and China reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability in the South China Sea as tensions continue to grip the disputed resource-filled ocean.
“ASEAN and China have seen steady progress in the initial phase of the COC negotiations since the announcement of a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, and looked forward to the completion of the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text by 2019,” Duterte said during the 21st ASEAN-China Summit here Wednesday.
“ASEAN and China are committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety and the expeditious conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC),” he added.
According to Duterte, ASEAN and China would continue to maintain a conducive environment for future rounds of negotiations of the COC.
“As co-chair of the COC negotiations, the Philippines will continue to work closely together with the ASEAN member states and China for the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC,” he said.
He also said that ASEAN and China continue to reaffirm the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight.
“We also reaffirm 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 1982 UNCLOS,” Duterte said.
Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Kiqiang lauded how ASEAN and China were able to overcome differences and peacefully handled disputes in the South China Sea.
“We have found the way to properly manage and diffuse differences. For example, on the issue of the South China Sea in the past years with the DOC in implementation, overall peace and stability in the South China Sea have been maintained and now the situation is now moving toward great stability,” Li said.
“On that basis, China is ready work with all ASEAN countries toward concluding COC consultations in three years time, in that basis. And it is our hope that we can set up a time frame so that in three years time, the COC will become a set of rules, contributing to peace and stability in the South China Sea that will also be conducive to free trade and the further upgrading of our free trade area,” he added.
In August, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said ASEAN and China agreed to put everything down in a single draft as basis for future negotiations.
“This does not mean negotiations are over, but it is meant to generate a code of conduct that would ensure peace, stability, confidence so that we can continue to make collective progress,” Balakrishnan said.