ASEAN agrees on basis for talks

By Deng Xiaoci Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/2 22:58:40

US Secretary of State can talk ‘but few will follow’: analyst

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (6th from left) and his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi (far right), pose for a group photo at the 51st ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Singapore on Thursday. Photo: AFP

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are fully capable of safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea, and negotiating regional rules that will be accepted and followed by all, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Singapore on Thursday.

Top diplomats from the Southeast Asian countries and China have reached a consensus on a document that will be the basis of negotiations on a South China Sea code of conduct, Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced at the beginning of an annual ministerial meeting between China and the ASEAN member states on Thursday, Singapore broadcaster Channel Newsasia reported.

"Reaching consensus on the document marks another major progress in the negotiation process over the code of conduct," said Wang in a statement  posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

Wang said he believes that China and ASEAN member states can accelerate negotiations on the matter, as long as "we can eliminate disturbances from outside the region."

China has deployed the most advanced ocean salvage vessels together with professional search and rescue teams to Nansha Island, which are ready to provide immediate services to ships from any country. China will also offer scientific and meteorological research as an international public service, said Wang.

Wang is visiting Singapore for the China-ASEAN foreign ministers meeting and the foreign ministers meetings of the East Asia Summit.

Chinese observers hailed the document as it is a promising foundation for future negotiations and shows that countries in the region are fully capable of managing and controlling disputes despite the complexity of the issues.

"It sets a basic framework in which  China and the 10 ASEAN countries have agreed on discussion topics and the extent to which the future code of conduct will be binding," Zhu Feng, executive director of China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The document also signifies that China's long-held desire for stability in the region has gained more support from ASEAN countries, said Zhu, adding that this constructive attitude has brought China and ASEAN ever closer.

While the document maps out a direction for negotiations, which are aimed at better safeguarding regional stability and good order, the troublesome actions of some countries outside the region cannot be overlooked, said Xing Guangmei, head of the law studies sector at the Chinese Naval Research Institute.

Those outside countries are interested only in sustaining their attempts at hegemony and reaching a final code of conduct remains a "fragile" process, Xing told the Global Times on Thursday.

'Fake news'

Earlier in the day, Japan's public broadcaster NHK claimed that it has obtained a draft of a joint communiqué of the ASEAN ministers' meeting, which opens in Singapore on Thursday.

The NHK report said some ASEAN countries raised fresh "concerns" "on China's activity in the South China Sea," "which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region."

The report was immediately slammed as "fake news" by the Chinese media, with unnamed sources who are familiar with the matter saying that "this year's joint communiqué is likely to be more positive than the one issued last year."

The source also pointed that "the overwhelming majority of ASEAN members agree on the need to increase stability in the South China Sea, and they speak positively of the progress in managing and controlling the South China Sea situation jointly achieved by China and the ASEAN countries."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also currently on a trip to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia this week, during which he will attend the Singapore ministerial meetings.

"It is very likely Pompeo will finally make clear Donald Trump's foreign policy over the Southeast Asian region," Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations, told the Global Times.

As policymakers in ASEAN countries have increasingly realized that the US presence in the area is of a "divisive nature" that undermines  the solidarity of the region and China-ASEAN relations, Li noted that Pompeo can talk as much as he wants but few will follow this time. 



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