ASEAN calls for non-militarization, self-restraint in South China Sea activities

MANILA-- The foreign ministers of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have called for non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of land reclamations and activities in the disputed South China Sea/West Philippine Sea, as they opt of having a sea of peace, stability and prosperity.

In a joint communique of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting issued on Sunday, they urged claimants and all other states to avoid actions, including those mentioned in the declaration on the conduct (DOC) of parties, that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the area.

They noted the concerns expressed by some Ministers 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.

ASEAN foreign ministers stressed the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety.

The DOC of Parties, which was signed by ASEAN member states and China in 2002, was a measure to settle disputes and prevent tensions in the South China Sea.

They were encouraged by the conclusion and adoption of the framework of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which will facilitate the work for the conclusion of an effective COC on a mutually-agreed timeline.

In view of this positive momentum, we reaffirmed our readiness to begin the substantive negotiation on the COC and tasked our Senior Officials to start the negotiation on the COC with China, the ASEAN joint communique said.

The foreign ministers also underscored the need for claimants to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Pursuant to the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety, and pending the early adoption of an effective COC, we stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties, they added.

Countries that have made competing claims over parts or all of the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea were the Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Source: Philippines News Agency