ASEAN stresses restraint and non-militarisation in South China Sea

  • At the ASEAN foreign minister’s retreat emphasis was placed on restraint and non-militarisation with regards to disputes with China, primarily in the South China Sea, as outlined in a statement by Vivian Balakrishnan, who was the chair of the conference.
  • This comes shortly before talks were due to open with China over a code of conduct in order to manage tensions in the disputed waters.
  • China currently has territorial disputes with Brunei, Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam over islands such as the Spratly islands, the Parcel islands, and Scarborough shoal.
  • Matters such as concerns over China’s building of artificial islands and the construction of military installations were discussed, whilst the erosion in trust and increase in tension was also noted, as per Balakrishnan, whilst also reiterating the importance in ASEAN centrality and Unity.
  • The ASEAN ministers also reaffirmed the importance of maintaining safety and freedom of navigating in and above the South China Sea, welcoming improving cooperation between China and ASEAN, also noting full respect for the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic process, without resorting to the use of force, in line with international law.
  • The Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi spoke positively of the momentum in the leadup to the conference with China, adding that it was “very important for ASEAN” to be able to discuss “sensitive issues in a candid and transparent but friendly manner”.

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