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Beijing Proposes Joint Statement On South China Sea Disputes Pending Binding Agreement

by April 29, 2016 General

SINGAPORE, April 29 (Bernama) — Pending a binding agreement on how China and ASEAN should manage territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Beijing has proposed a joint statement pledging to adhere to the principles of the 2002 pact, including to refrain from escalating tensions in the area, The Straits Times reported Thursday.

The report said that the statement will reflect elements in the 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC), a pact signed by China and ASEAN members stating that all parties should resolve their disputes peacefully and avoid doing anything that would complicate or escalate these disputes.

Quoting Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, the report said it was “necessary” for members of the 10-nation grouping to reaffirm their commitment to the DOC, which has not been fully implemented.

This comes at a time when ASEAN and China are negotiating a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) to prevent conflicts in the sea, where China has overlapping claims with ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.

Other ASEAN members are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore.

Liu was speaking at a press conference to wrap up a two-day meeting in Singapore of Chinese and ASEAN diplomats.

“Pending the final conclusion of COC, we believe that issuing a joint statement to reaffirm our commitment to the DOC is a positive move to ensure stability and peace in the South China Sea,” Liu was quoted as saying.

Chaired by the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Chee Wee Kiong and Liu, the meeting discussed how to implement DOC guidelines and improve ASEAN-China cooperation.

Singapore is the current coordinator for the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

But tensions are expected to rise when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague gives its ruling by early June on a petition brought by the Philippines against China’s claims in the South China Sea, the report said.

Liu said that China did not recognise the tribunal and will not accept its ruling, adding that the DOC continued to be the “common basis” to address territorial issues.

The contents of the DOC include:

– The Parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;

– The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.

– Pending the peaceful settlement of territorial and jurisdictional disputes, the Parties concerned undertake to intensify efforts to seek ways, in the spirit of cooperation and understanding, to build trust and confidence between and among them, including holding dialogues and exchange of views as appropriate between their defense and military officials;