Asean to convince China to hold COC negotiations in September-A A +A
Friday, August 16, 2013
THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will try to convince China to hold negotiations, instead of mere consultations, for a binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the West Philippine Sea during the September meeting in Beijing.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the 10-member bloc intends to speak with "one voice" in making China agree to draft a binding code in the region.
"With solidarity and the intention of speaking with one voice, Asean is going to take, has taken the position that they will urge China to agree to an expeditious COC," he said on the sidelines of the Eid'l Fitr reception held at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) head office in Pasay City.
The Foreign Affairs chief has just gotten back from a meeting with Asean foreign ministers in Thailand.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier said that Beijing is in the position to negotiate the COC in a step-by-step manner.
Asked if the bloc intends to turn the "consultations" to "negotiations," del Rosario said that is what Asean is aiming for.
Asean has agreed to let Vietnam speak on behalf of the bloc regarding the consultations and negotiations about the COC. Vietnam is one of the six claimant-countries of the resource-rich region.
Other claimant-countries are China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.
"I don't think it's going to be that simple. We'll see what happens when we go to China at the end of August," del Rosario said.
The COC is provided under the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct (DOC) that was signed by Asean and China to reduce political tensions and prevent claimant-states from acting aggressively on their claims.
Asean is composed of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam.
The COC has been pending for more than a decade but push for its final draft has never been stronger as in the past year when tensions rose between Manila, Beijing and Hanoi because of several Chinese intrusions into Philippines- and Vietnam-claimed islands.
And although Vietnam has managed to draft a bilateral agreement with China, the Philippines remained steadfast in modernizing its military and naval capabilities with the help of its only treaty ally, the United States.
This is something that has deeply angered Beijing, which sees the Philippines as a "troublemaker" in the region.
The "consultations" in September, which will be held in Beijing, marks the first time China will be speaking with Asean as a bloc. The Asian economic powerhouse has repeatedly frowned upon multilateral negotiations, only opening up to bilateral discussions with claimant-countries.
The relations between Manila and Beijing took a dip in April last year when Chinese vessels intruded into the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a Philippine-claimed territory that sits just 124 nautical miles off the province of Zambales in Luzon.
A naval standoff between the two countries lasted for more than two months with the Philippines eventually bringing the issue before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos).
Beijing refused to participate in the arbitral proceedings, but Manila was adamant to push through with the case that will hopefully invalidate China's "excessive" nine-dash line claim. (CVB/Sunnex)