Asean foreign ministers have expressed concern over land reclamation activities and serious incidents in the disputed South China Sea.
In a joint communique of the 52nd Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bangkok, the ministers said the situation had eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.
“We 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 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos),” they said in the statement.
The ministers also emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the area.
They also welcomed the negotiations between Asean and China towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, within a mutually-agreed timeline.
The statement said the foreign ministers also welcomed efforts to complete the first reading of the single draft COC negotiating text.
“We emphasise the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the COC negotiations, and thus welcomed practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risk of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation.
“We stress the importance of undertaking confidence-building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties; and we reaffirmed the importance of upholding international law, including the Unclos,” the statement said.
Yesterday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Asean and China have finished the first reading of the single draft negotiating text on the COC in the South China Sea ahead of schedule.
He said it was major progress and step towards the goal of concluding the consultations within three years.
Tensions are on the rise in the South China Sea over recent incidents involving Chinese, Vietnamese and Philippine ships, while China blamed the United States for destabilising security in by stoking strategic competition and intensifying the regional arms race.