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ASEAN focuses on South China Sea row
July 1, 2013, 12:56 am

Chinese FM Wang Yi said China is committed to resolving the dispute peacefully [Xinhua]

Chinese FM Wang Yi said China is committed to resolving the dispute peacefully [Xinhua]

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) encouraged cooperation and interaction with China over disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea, a joint communique said Sunday.

The statement of encouraging China-ASEAN engagement was included in a joint communique issued after a meeting of the ASEAN foreign ministers in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei.

The foreign ministers said they reiterated “the need to steadily move towards the conclusion of a COC [Code of Conduct in the South China Sea] on the basis of consensus.”

Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China is willing to work together with the ASEAN nations to push forward the process of developing a code of conduct from the declaration.

ASEAN will hold further talks with China in September.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Singapore’s Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam described the closed-door discussions as being positive and constructive.

“We have had cooperative, consultative good meetings at the officials’ levels with China and I believe that will continue. What China has said to us is that it believes in peaceful co-existence in development and being partner in peace,” Shanmugam told reporters.

“If there is an increase in tension, if there is conflict, it is not in anybody’s interests. It is not in ASEAN’s interest, it is not in China’s interest. China recognises it, ASEAN recognises it, other countries recognise it. And that is why we have been talking about the DOC (Declaration on Conduct) and the importance of starting negotiations on the COC (Code of Conduct).”

The joint communique also focused on the efforts of the organization to push for the building of an ASEAN Community by the end of 2015 and improve inter-connectivity among the member states, including a plan for a common visa.

The issuing of the joint communique helped avoid a repeat of the embarrassing failure to produce a joint statement at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh last year as the Philippines tried to force contents related to its island disputes with China into the joint statement.

The communique also highlighted that it “appreciated the exchange of views on the issues including initiatives and approaches to enhance trust, confidence and dialogue, and address incidents in the South China Sea.”

“We underscored the importance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea, and the ASEAN-China Joint Statement on the 10th anniversary of the DOC,” it said.

China and ASEAN concluded the DOC in 2002 and have been pushing for efforts to start talks on a Code of Conduct.

Shanmugam said China has told its ASEAN neighbors that it believes in peaceful co-existence and development and being a partner in peace.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is in Brunei for a meeting with ASEAN counterparts, said later today that China’s new leadership is committed to continuously consolidating and deepening the strategic partnership with the ASEAN and adheres to friendly consultations to properly handle its problems with some ASEAN countries.