China, ASEAN finish draft framework for South China Sea code of conduct

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Chinese structures on an island in the Spratlys. (photo by Erik De Castro, Reuters)

GUIYANG, Guizhou — After years of consultations and discussions on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nation senior officials have finally wrapped up talks on the draft framework for the code of conduct.

The milestone was reached during the 14th Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC held Thursday at the New World Hotel.

“On the COC, we are pleased to announce that the senior officials have completed the negotiations on the draft COC framework,” Chee Wee Kiong, co-chair of the 14th China-ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting, announced in a joint press conference after the meeting.

Chee, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Singapore and coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, said the draft COC framework will be submitted during the China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Conference to be held in the Philippines in August this year.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and China-ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting co-chair Liu Zhenmin commended their fellow senior officials from the 10 ASEAN member-nations for their hard work and dedication.

“Taking this opportunity, I wish to positively commend and highly appreciate the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation demonstrated by the senior officials and friends from 10 member ASEAN states,” Liu said.

“On the COC consultation, we worked diligently and completed the consultation on the framework of the COC,” the Chinese official said.

The Chinese senior official clarified that the consultation on the COC will continue without “outside interference.”

Liu said the draft framework of COC was the “accumulated outcome of our efforts for the past several years.”

“The COC consultation is a concrete implementation of the DOC framework. Eventually when the COC is completed, it will be an enhancement to the DOC,” Liu said even as he admitted that “it is very difficult to agree in all elements (of the draft COC framework) and it takes time.”

Chee attributed the success of the meeting to the stable situation in the South China Sea and to the series of meetings since the implementation of the DOC in 2002.

”We discussed the South China Sea issue and for the past months, there have been no major disruptions and the situation in the South China Sea and the region has been stable,” he said.

When asked if the COC will be adopted in the next five years, Liu said it would be up to the ASEAN member countries.

“What I can say is that China will make joint efforts with 10 ASEAN member-states to arrive at final COC,” he said.

Aside from Liu and Chee Wee, the senior officials in attendance include Maria Hellen Barber-Dela Vega of the Philippines, Emaleen Abd Rahman Teo of Brunei Darussalam, Kah Pharidh of Cambodia, Jose Antonio Morato of Indonesia, Phongsavanh Sisoulath of Laos, Joji Samuel M C Samuel of Malaysia, U Myint Thu of Myanmar, Busaya Mathelin of Thailand and Nguyen Quoc Dzung of Vietnam.