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Manila tack on China row wins Asean nod

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have agreed that the regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea should integrate provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), a treaty that the Philippines cites in its claim to disputed Scarborough Shoal and other islands.

Unclos virtually scraps China’s historical claim over majority of the islands in the South China Sea using its “nine dashed line” argument that covers 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea on Chinese maps.

The Asean working group on the Regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea has concluded discussions on the key elements of the draft Code of Conduct in the South China Sea for the Asean side.

Nong Sakal, deputy director general of the General Department of Asean, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, chaired the 7th Meeting of the Asean Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) working group on the regional Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.

Cambodia chairs the Asean meetings this year. Members include the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, Burma or Myanmar.

The inputs of the working group would be submitted for the consideration of the Asean SOM then forwarded to the foreign ministers meeting in middle of July and for consideration of the Asean and Chinese leaders meeting in November this year.

“The meeting agreed to submit the draft Asean proposed key elements of the regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to the Asean SOM for consideration,” said an Asean statement after the meeting. It included recommendations of the Asean Foreign Ministers in January that the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea must be based on the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982.”

The Asean officials drafting the code said, “the UN Charter and universally recognized international laws are aimed at promoting confidence building and cooperation between Asean and China for the sake of peace, stability and security in the South China Sea.”

The code of conduct aims to demilitarize the disputed islands in the South China Sea, including the Scarborough Shoal, that are being claimed by the Philippines and China. Other claimants to the disputed islands in the South China Sea include Asean members such as Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. 

The Philippines is seeking to engage international and regional platforms such as the United Nations and Asean to address the increasing tensions with China over the incidents in the Scarborough Shoal since April and previous Chinese military presence in disputed islands in the South China Sea based on Unclos.

But China insists on pushing for bilateral negotiations with other claimant countries to settle the disputes.

The Philippines had earlier opposed the inclusion of China in the drafting of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, saying the code should be a product of negotiations solely of the 10-member Asean that will have to be signed as a final document by China. 

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Estrella Torres | Business Mirror | June 13, 2012 | Article Link

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