Exclusive: Code of Conduct in South China Sea will definitely be reached: Chinese official on ocean affairs
Published: Jul 27, 2022 12:58 AM
South China Sea Photo: VCG
File Photo: VCG

The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) is the first major political document on the South China Sea issue signed by China and ASEAN members. In accordance with the spirit of the DOC, disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved through friendly consultation and negotiation between the countries concerned in the South China Sea, while peace and stability in the region should be jointly maintained by China and ASEAN members, stressed Hong Liang, Director General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, at the symposium commemorating the 20th anniversary of the signing of the DOC held in Beijing on Monday.

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, Hong said the South China Sea is the common home of China and ASEAN members. Since the signing of the DOC 20 years ago, China and ASEAN members have established dialogue channels and consultation mechanisms from the leaders to the working level.

Various parties have carried out many practical cooperation projects in the fields of marine environmental protection, scientific research and maritime security. The situation in the South China Sea has remained stable on the whole, and relations between China and ASEAN members have also achieved leapfrog development, Hong said, hailing the important and positive role that the DOC has played.

"Judging from the achievements made in the past 20 years, the South China Sea is generally peaceful and stable, and the main challenge we face is external interference," Hong said. "But in the face of external challenges, China and ASEAN members have an important consensus that the fate of peace and stability in the South China Sea should be firmly in their own hands."

Only when the South China Sea remains peaceful and stable can countries in the region enjoy a sound environment for development, and that is what the DOC is all about, Hong told the Global Times.

The consultation on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) has drawn wide attention. Hong noted that the COC is an important step in implementing the DOC. The COC should conform to the spirit of the DOC and more specifically, an "enhanced version" of the DOC.

It is hoped that in the near future, China and ASEAN members will reach a substantive and effective COC to establish a more orderly maritime order in the South China Sea, the senior official said.

When explaining why the DOC and the COC are inseparable, Hong said that the DOC is the foundation of the COC, without which the COC would not be possible. The formulation of the COC is clearly stipulated in the DOC. Therefore, the important principles and spirit contained in the DOC should be fully reflected in the formulation of the COC.

Hong said that in the past 20 years, people can see the great development of relations between China and ASEAN members. Similarly, the region's economy has flourished and become an important pole of world economic growth. "We should maintain this posture. This is what the COC aims to achieve," he said, noting that the COC will definitely be reached, but it will take time to do so, which requires the right direction and patience.

Facing interference from countries outside the region, Hong stressed that China and ASEAN members can stay focused and do things that are conducive to peace and stability in the South China Sea, and any external interference will not work.

According to Hong, the purpose of the symposium aims to further strengthen unity and cooperation between China and ASEAN members, implement the DOC and build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.