Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is surrounded by journalists at the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its dialogue partners, in Manila, Philippines on Sunday. Photo: AP
he adoption by China and ASEAN countries of the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea has shattered any reason for non-regional countries to intervene, experts said.
Joint efforts by China and ASEAN member countries have greatly improved the situation in the South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Manila on Monday, stressing that China and ASEAN have the ability and the wisdom to negotiate the COC, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Both sides have successfully drawn up and adopted the framework of the COC in the South China Sea, saying they would begin substantive consultations on the text of the COC within the year after completing preparations, Wang said.
“The COC framework lays the foundation for both China and ASEAN to further negotiate the behavior and activities in the South China Sea, but does not resolve the disputes. In other words, it can help relevant countries peacefully resolve their disputes,” said Xu Liping, a researcher on Southeast Asian affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The framework confirms that the disputes in the South China Sea should be negotiated by China and ASEAN, which prevents intervention from outside countries, Xu said.
However, Wang said some outside countries prefer to live in the past, turn a blind eye to the positive changes, unwilling to recognize achievements made by the joint efforts of China and ASEAN, and even issue damaging information.
“We have to ask whether some countries are unwilling to recognize that the situation in the South China Sea is stabilizing. Is the further stabilization of the South China Sea not in the interest of these countries?” he asked.
Australia, Japan and the US on Monday urged Southeast Asian countries and China to ensure that the COC is legally binding and said they strongly oppose “coercive unilateral actions,” Reuters reported on Monday.
ASEAN and China should establish a set of rules that are “legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law,” the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a statement after a meeting in Manila.
“This shows that the US, Japan and Australia are very frustrated because their reasons to disrupt the South China Sea situation are dwindling, but they will not give up. They will increase their military presence or try to use some ASEAN members to interrupt the COC negotiations for them,” Xu said.
“We hope non-regional countries will take note of the positive changes in the South China Sea in the past year and respect the efforts that China and ASEAN have made to achieve the results,” and “we don’t want any non-regional countries to continue to tell us what to do,” Wang said.
At the China-ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting on Sunday, Wang said that ASEAN foreign ministers carefully assessed the situation in the South China Sea and adopted the COC framework.
“This is the current mainstream view of countries in the region,” Wang said.
Professor Aileen SP Baviera from the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines told the Global Times that China and ASEAN have made progress to fundamentally end squabbles, and that if it fails, it would destabilize the region.
“We have cooperated and brought it back on track to resolve disputes through dialogue and negotiations by the parties directly concerned,” and “We should fully appreciate these important improvements and cherish the achievements made by our joint efforts,” Wang said.
The positive change in the South China Sea situation was also reflected in the joint communiqué issued by ASEAN foreign ministers, Wang added.
Speaking at the earlier 7th East Asia Summit (EAS) foreign ministers’ meeting, Wang said improvements to the situation in the South China Sea are more significant than last year’s.
Wang told the EAS meeting that China and ASEAN countries have the ability and wisdom to negotiate the COC.
He added that China and ASEAN will continue to press ahead with negotiations on the COC with the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), in the hope of establishing mutually acceptable regional rules