Jun 08, 2021 / 19:37

South China Sea issues test ASEAN-China relations

Indonesia’s foreign minister said ASEAN and China need to continue discussing the Code of Conduct (COC), which progress remains very slow.

Indonesia’s top diplomat believed that the South China Sea issues will be a test for ASEAN-China relations.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi at the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers Meeting in Chongqing, China on June 7. Photo: VNA 

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi believed that the ability of ASEAN and China to manage the South China Sea could strengthen their partnership of “equality and mutual benefit.”

The diplomat called on ASEAN member states and China to soon resume negotiating the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) which will be used as guidelines for parties in the sea.

She made the call at the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers Meeting in Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Dialogue Relations held in Chongqing, China on June 7, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

In this regard, Indonesia is ready to hold a COC discussion meeting in the near future.

In addition, Indonesia also encourages all parties to abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) which includes exercise of restraint by all parties.

Retno also said ASEAN and China need to work together to maintain regional stability, peace and prosperity, amidst the current geopolitical dynamics.

She noted that ability to manage the South China Sea would strengthen the equal partnership, mutual benefit and indispensable for global peace and stability. And all must be done in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS).

It is important to build strategic trust, not behavior that further undermines mutual trust, she emphasized.

The Indonesian foreign minister had called for the resumption of COC negotiations at the virtual ASEAN Informal Action Ministerial Meeting in June 2020. She said negotiation among claimant countries is key and Indonesia supports it though it’s not a claimant country, the Jakarta Globe reported.

“It’s important for ASEAN to keep sending out messages to great powers involved in the dispute to maintain regional peace and stability in the South China Sea,” she said, adding that Collaboration and cooperation should be paramount, not rivalry.

Retno said all ASEAN member states should adhere to international law in the dispute and oppose the 9-dash-line policy proposed by China.

“ASEAN states should be solid in their resolve to respect international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and the decisions made by the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration,” she said.

  Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son at the meeting in Chongqing, China on June 7. Photo: MoFA

In another move, addressing the foreign ministers meeting in Chongqing, Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son stressed the need to maintain peace, security, stability and rule of law in the region, through responsible actions and friendly cooperation between ASEAN and China.

He said Vietnam will continue to work with ASEAN countries and China to fully and effectively implement the DOC and develop an effective and efficient COC in accordance with international law and UNCLOS 1982.

At the meeting, Son reaffirmed ASEAN countries as the ASEAN Community that will continue to support Myanmar to find long-term solutions to stabilize the situation, ensure safety and stability for local people.