China, ASEAN hasten talks to avoid maritime conflicts

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/17 0:33:39 Last Updated: 2016/8/18 7:03:19

Approve 2 documents to limit potential maritime conflicts

Photo by Bai Tiantian

China and ASEAN member countries have agreed to hasten consultations on the South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC), approving two documents on how to deal with unplanned encounters and maritime emergencies in disputed waters.

Analysts said the documents show progress made by China and ASEAN to contain potential conflicts.

Senior diplomats from China and 10 ASEAN states convened on Tuesday at the 13th Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The two documents are guidelines on the establishment of the senior officials' hotline platform in response to maritime emergencies and a joint statement on applications of the Code for Unplanned Encounters (CUEs) in the South China Sea.

The documents will be made public in September at the ASEAN Summit after the final approval from leaders of the 11 countries.

The vice foreign ministers have also agreed to speed up consultations on the COC. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said a draft COC framework will be completed by mid-2017 if it goes without any hitches.

The 13th SOM is the first such meeting since the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled against China's claims within the nine-dash line. It is the third such meeting since April, and has exceeded the norm of two SOMs per year.

Permanent Secretary of the Singapore Foreign Ministry Chee Wee Kiong said at the meeting on Tuesday that the number of SOMs this year demonstrates ASEAN's commitment to the DOC.

"[The number of SOMs this year] shows ASEAN and China are more aware that they hold the key to solving the South China Sea issues, given the increasingly complicated situation, especially interference from outside forces," said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, who co-chaired the 13th SOM with Chee.

Liu did not reply to a question from the Global Times on whether a timetable exists for Philippine special envoy Fidel Ramos to visit the Chinese mainland.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying last week welcomed Ramos to visit the Chinese mainland. Ramos also said the Philippines wants formal negotiations with China to explore pathways to peace and cooperation after meeting with former Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying in Hong Kong.

Liu urged Singapore not to get involved in the maritime disputes.

"Singapore is not involved in the South China Sea disputes. We hope Singapore could play a bigger role in promoting China-ASEAN cooperation as long as it does not interfere in the disputes," Liu said. 

Posted in: Diplomacy

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