July 19, 2023
BEIJING – Importance of code of conduct restated for upholding regional peace, stability
All positive efforts made by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on negotiations for a code of conduct, or COC, in the South China Sea should be welcomed, experts say.
“Any progress made on the negotiation … should be appreciated because it is very important to make sure that both ASEAN and China can work together in order to ensure regional security,” said Aleksius Jemadu, political professor and dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at the Universitas Pelita Harapan in Indonesia.
Highlighting regional stability, Jemadu said all countries should be pragmatic and make sure that a COC can be eventually produced and be a kind of common reference to create a smooth and peaceful process of economic recovery.
ASEAN foreign ministers said they welcome the progress achieved so far in current negotiations, including the completion of the second reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, and encouraged continued positive momentum in this regard, according to a joint communique issued on Thursday following the 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta.
“We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, and recognized the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity,” the joint communique said.
Henry Chan, visiting senior research fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace in Phnom Penh, said the most important thing is that as long as the talks are continuing, they will be conducive to regional peace and help prevent confrontation.
However, this is going to be a “lengthened discussion”, said Chan, noting the United States and Japan may have a different view on the COC.
Some countries outside the South China Sea have tried to create and hype up tensions in the region to suit self-interest at the cost of regional stability and prosperity, which is deemed irresponsible, if not ill-intended, analysts said. But regional leaders stand firm on own ground.
As this year’s ASEAN chair, Indonesia hosted the 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference, or AMM-PMC, and related meetings on July 11-14 by representatives from 29 countries. A total of 239 bilateral meetings, including one between China and the US, and 6 trilateral meetings were held last week.
Among the key outcomes, the AMM-PMC emphasized how ASEAN should get ready for future challenges and how ASEAN should become a key contributor to regional peace and stability. It also stressed ASEAN’s role to become a center of growth.
The ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting saw the adoption of the ASEAN-China Joint Statement on Commemorating and Reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of China’s Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and the guidelines accelerating the conclusion of the COC.
“Good relations between China and ASEAN is one of the most important pillars of this regional stability and peace in Southeast Asia,” Jemadu said.
He expects China to play a key role in fulfilling the needs of Southeast Asia, because the country has a lot of economic instruments to facilitate cooperation and “it will be much appreciated by ASEAN members”.
The meeting also encouraged increased China-ASEAN economic cooperation, including the conclusion of negotiation for the Free Trade Agreement 3.0, to strengthen trade relations.