Time to turn a new leaf on South China Sea issue

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/8/6 10:36:06

The foreign ministers of China and ASEAN endorsed the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea on Saturday for eventual adoption at the ASEAN-China meeting on Sunday in Manila, the Philippines, a substantial step toward calming disputes in the waterway and reaching a long-term solution to a once thorny issue.

The draft document on the COC, an official declaration professing common aspiration to maintain peace and stability in the region, is regarded as a concrete step to resolving the South China Sea dispute.

Such encouraging advancement notwithstanding, related parties should cherish the hard-won results achieved through numerous rounds of bargaining accommodation, remain vigilant against outside interference and deliver on their joint commitments.

China and the ASEAN committed to reaching a final COC 15 years ago. The framework was agreed upon in May during a senior officials' meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Guiyang, southwest China's Guizhou Province.

Setting a rough outline of a COC designed to prevent clashes in the South China Sea, the draft marked a crucial achievement and was hailed as a pivotal milestone for further talks.

Under the agreement, all parties are obliged to reach a final COC to build a South China Sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.

All parties should uphold using the framework of regional rules to manage and control disputes, to deepen maritime cooperation and jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

In 2002, China and ASEAN signed the DOC, committing all members to directly resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes through peaceful means.

More than one year after an ill-founded award at a South China Sea arbitration unilaterally delivered by an ad hoc tribunal in The Hague, the situation in the South China Sea has stabilized and improved thanks to the wisdom and sincerity of China and the parties concerned.

Since 2016, the related parties have agreed to set up a senior diplomat hotline to cope with maritime emergencies, and apply the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea, which would help cement trust and avoid unexpected issues.

In a joint communique issued in January, China and Vietnam pledged to manage maritime differences and avoid any acts that may complicate the situation and escalate tensions.

In a sign of improvement in bilateral relations, foreign ministers of China and the Philippines decided late last month to seek ways to carry out joint exploration in the South China Sea.

In waters where there is an overlapping of maritime rights and interests, unilateral action might complicate the situation and lead to tensions, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed.

China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in compliance with international law, but it should by no means be used as an excuse by certain countries outside the region to stir up trouble.

ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. No time than now is better for all parties to value the sense of community that exists in the South China Sea, object to interference of any form, and move the COC negotiations in the right direction.

Posted in: POLITICS

blog comments powered by Disqus