ASEAN and China agree to ‘milestone’ text as basis for talks over South China Sea

World Today

At the ASEAN Foreign Minister meeting in Singapore, members and Beijing agreed to a draft of a code of conduct. It’s intended to be a foundation for future talks over the contested area. CGTN’s Frances Kuo has more on this significant move.

The milestone: a draft text of a code of conduct regarding the disputed South China Sea, reached between China and ASEAN’s 10 member states.

Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affair’s declared that, “This will be a living document, and it will be the basis for future COC negotiations.”

The move, described as a “major achievement”, is significant. Discussions over a code of conduct had been ongoing for more than a decade.

The South China Sea is one of the world’s busiest waterways, with trillions of dollars worth of goods passing through every year. Some ASEAN members – like the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia – have conflicting claims with China over islands in the sea.

The dispute had caused relations in the region to sour, and discussions over a solution had, up to this point, proved unsuccessful.

Those attending the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting were cautious about the code of conduct. They disagree over whether it should be legally binding, and the code is not intended to resolve disputes; it’s meant to promote peace during future negotiations.

Peace further north on the Korean Peninsula was also discussed at the meeting.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was asked if current trade disputes with the US would impact talks with the DPRK. He replied that, “The crucial step now is to implement the agreement reached in Singapore during the Trump-Kim summit. Yes, this exact place, Singapore, that is realizing denuclearization and establishing a peace mechanism on the Korea peninsula should be pushed forward simultaneously. Because these two aspects affect each other, and their existence depends on each other.”

Wang Yi added that China and other countries are willing to play a “constructive role”.

“So we hope both the DPRK and South Korea maintain their contact, reasonably address each other’s legitimate concerns. We encourage them to make progress in their dialogue and continue their communication,” he said.

Diplomacy will once again play out in Singapore when the DPRK, China, the US and other nations attend the annual ASEAN Regional Forum. Denuclearization on the Korean is expected to top the agenda.