ASEAN vows to finalize South China Sea’s ‘Code of Conduct’ talks

February 04, 2023
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi speaks at the ASEAN foreign ministers retreat in Jakarta on Saturday.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi speaks at the ASEAN foreign ministers retreat in Jakarta on Saturday.

JAKARTA — Foreign Ministers of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) vowed Saturday to finalize negotiations with Beijing over “Code of Conduct” in South China Sea.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, at the end of the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting taking place here, highlighted members states’ commitment to conclude the talks and asserted the need for an objective, effective and implementable Code of Conduct.

“Commitment of members to conclude the negotiation of the COC as soon as possible is obvious, bearing in mind the need to track a substantive, effective, and actionable COC,” Retno told reporters, shortly after the group’s ministerial retreat.

In 1992, ASEAN member states issued a declaration to resolve disputes in the South China Sea by peaceful means. A decade later, China and ASEAN inked a declaration of conduct (DOC) on the South China Sea.

Under the DOC, the signees promised to exercise self-restraint from conducting activities that may disrupt the regional peace and order such as inhabiting uninhabited islands, among others. The document calls for the adoption of a COC to further promote peace and stability.

“Members are committed to promoting the implementation of the DOC,” Retno said.

She further underlined her country’s readiness to host upcoming round of negotiations, set to be held in March, as Indonesia is the current chair of the association.

China is demanding a large chunk of the South China Sea but its claims are being challenged by a number of ASEAN member states including Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam.

While Indonesia is not among those challenging China’s demands, it has clashed with China over fishing rights in Natuna Islands, close to the disputed waters.

The Code of Conduct talks have been taking place since the nineties, but were repeatedly halted for various reasons, latest of which is the coronavirus pandemic.

Negotiations have stalled most recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it more difficult to hold in-person meetings. Myanmar is the current coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue relations.

An official at the Foreign Affairs Ministry told the same press conference that ASEAN had nothing to do with the territorial disputes, and the claimant states should discuss such matters between themselves. This means that the COC will unlikely resolve the territorial disputes.

“ASEAN does not deal with issues related to ownership, but we only [discuss] maritime matters. Ownership should be discussed through bilateral negotiations. Ownership occurs because of the overlapping claims between the ASEAN countries themselves,” Sidharto Suryodipuro, the Ministry’s director-general for ASEAN cooperation, said.

At the ministerial retreat, the ASEAN senior diplomats also discussed advancing a mutually beneficial and more meaningful partnership with the European Union (EU), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Canada, Australia, and Japan. — Agencies

February 04, 2023
2 hours ago

Nigerian politician and doctor convicted in 'horrific' UK organ harvesting plot

3 hours ago

Hotel Rwanda hero set to be freed

4 hours ago

Netanyahu meets Sunak at Downing Street amid protests