Officials from China, ASEAN vow to build S.China Sea into sea of peace, friendship and cooperation at symposium marking 20th anniv. of DOC signing
Published: Jul 25, 2022 11:57 PM
Aerial photo taken on April 23, 2017 shows the Jinqing Island of Yongle Islands, located in the Xisha Islands, in south China's Hainan Province.(Photo: Xinhua)

Aerial photo taken on April 23, 2017 shows the Jinqing Island of Yongle Islands, located in the Xisha Islands, in south China's Hainan Province.(Photo: Xinhua)

Officials from China and ASEAN countries hailed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) as an important landmark document that has played a huge role in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea over the past 20 years at the symposium commemorating the 20th anniversary of the signing of  the DOC held in Beijing on Monday.

They agreed that China and ASEAN members should focus on cooperation, continue to follow the dual-track approach in dealing with the South China Sea issue, and look forward to the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).

The workshop was jointly organized by the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies (CIBOS) with the Wuhan University, as well as the National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS). 

In his opening speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of the signing of the DOC via video link, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on countries in the region to maintain their position in solving the South China Sea issue. 

Wang slammed some major countries for continuously increasing their involvement in the South China Sea region to maintain their hegemony, deliberately escalating tensions and provoking confrontations, and jeopardizing the legitimate rights and interests of littoral states and normal maritime order, calling on China and ASEAN members to make their attitude clear: If you come for peace and cooperation, we welcome you. If you come here to make trouble or cause damage, please leave! 

 "20 years ago, we seized the historic opportunity to embark on dialogue and cooperation on the South China Sea issue. Under the new historical conditions, we should keep in mind our original aspiration, continue to unswervingly maintain the purposes and principles of the DOC and implement the norms and propositions of the DOC, continue to hold the initiative and dominance in resolving the South China Sea issue in the hands of our regional countries, and truly make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation," Wang said.  

Wang stressed that China and ASEAN members should uphold the bottom line for peace. The South China Sea is not a "hunting park" for countries outside the region, still less should it become an "arena" for the game between major powers. Any words and deeds that create tension and provoke confrontation in the region should be firmly opposed. 

Hor Namhong, Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister, said in a video speech that this is a historic document on the South China Sea. Since its signing in 2002, it has promoted peace and cooperation between the parties directly concerned in the South China Sea. 

Over the past 20 years, the DOC has brought many possibilities, facilitated contacts, consultations and joint actions between ASEAN members and China, such as marine environmental protection, scientific research, safe navigation at sea and dealing with international crimes, Hor Namhong said. 

Since the signing of the DOC, Southeast Asia and China have become the fastest growing regions in the world, while some other regions have also benefited from the rapid development of the region, the deputy prime minister noted. 

Saifuddin Abdullah, Malaysia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, said every ASEAN member and China showed foresight and realized that stability in the South China Sea serves the common interests of all parties. He stressed the importance of implementing the DOC, saying it made great contributions to the COC.  

U Chan Aye, Permanent Secretary of Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said ASEAN members and China will discuss how to implement the DOC in a more comprehensive way and look forward to an early conclusion of the COC. An effective and substantive COC will contribute to peace, stability and security in the region, he said.

On June 7, 2021 China and the ASEAN members agreed to work together for an early agreement on the COC. Attending the 19th Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC held in Chongqing, the parties agreed to resume the second reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text as soon as possible and strive for the early conclusion of negotiations, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Vietnamese Ambassador to China Pham Sao Mai told the Global Times at the symposium that the DOC has played a positive role in maintaining peace, stability and security in the South China Sea, which also sent the signal to the world that ASEAN members and China are willing to resolve disputes in a peaceful way.  

"At this workshop, I felt the determination and hope of the representatives of ASEAN members and China to jointly study and find solutions to create a peaceful and stable environment in the region," said Pham Sao Mai, expressing the hope of reaching an effective and substantive COC.