Friday, August 7, 2015

Asean members want Code of Conduct fast-tracked

From Malaya (Aug 7): Asean members want Code of Conduct fast-tracked

SOME members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had “serious concerns” about land reclamation in the South China Sea, according to a draft of the final communiqué to be issued at the end of their separate talks in Kuala Lumpur this week seen by Reuters.

A statement was expected by the end of the day, senior officials said.

Member states had wrangled hard before finally agreeing on the wording of the communiqué.

The communiqué is expected to say that South China Sea matters were extensively discussed.

It will also say that China and Asean countries would proceed to the “next stage” of consultations on a code of conduct that is intended to bind them to detailed rules of behavior at sea.

“The joint communique should have been done by yesterday. It has not been finalised as of now,” Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

“The paragraph relating to the South China Sea is causing some problems,” he said, adding there was “no consensus on how the paragraph ought to be.”

He declined to give details on the wording.

While some Asean foreign ministers feel that the South China Sea issue is too important to ignore, those from countries strongly allied with ChinaCambodia, Laos and Myanmar – do not favor a strongly worded statement.

Asean foreign ministers have met their counterparts from various countries including China and the United States, and rebuffed China’s request to leave the dispute off the agenda.

An earlier draft communiqué said Asean was concerned about developments in the South China Sea and emphasized there should be no use of threats or force.

It also expressed concern over the pace of negotiations in trying to agree a code of conduct that is intended to bind China and ASEAN to detailed rules of behavior at sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday that Beijing had halted land reclamation in the South China Sea but said construction of facilities will continue.


US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday accused China of not allowing freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed South China Sea, despite giving assurances that such freedoms would not be impeded.

Addressing a regional meeting in Kuala Lumpur that has been dominated by the South China Sea, Kerry said China’s construction of facilities for “military purposes” on man-made islands was raising tensions and risked “militarisation” by other claimant states.

“Freedom of navigation and overflight are among the essential pillars of international maritime law,” Kerry told the East Asia Summit attended by foreign ministers from Southeast Asia, China, Japan and other nations.

“Despite assurances that these freedoms would be respected, we have seen warnings issued and restrictions attempted in recent months,” Kerry said.

“Let me be clear: The United States will not accept restrictions on freedom of navigation and overflight, or other lawful uses of the sea.”

China has repeatedly warned Philippine military aircraft away from the artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, Philippine military officials have said.

The Chinese navy also issued eight warnings to the crew of a US P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft when it conducted overflights in the area in May, according to CNN, which was aboard the US aircraft.

Kerry said he hoped China had stopped island building, but what was needed was an end to “militarization.”

He added that Wang’s commitment to resolving the South China Sea issue had not been as “fulsome” as some had hoped.

“In my meeting with ... Wang Yi, he indicated I think a different readiness of China to try to resolve some of this, though I think it was still not as fulsome as many of us would like to see,” Kerry told reporters.

“But it’s a beginning, and it may open up some opportunity for conversation on this in months ahead. We’ll have to wait and see.”


Philippine Defense Department spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said China should show proof that it has really stopped reclamations at the South China Sea.

“Nonetheless, a stop in the reclamation doesn’t change the fact that they have violated the agreement among states, disrespected nations in the area and violated our maritime rights placing the region in crisis,” said Galvez.

Galvez referred to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which calls on the parties involved in the South China Sea dispute “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

“The region would be glad to see a genuine proof of sincerity. The best proof would be the pull out of all equipment as a clear and unequivocal manifestation of that announcement,” said Galvez.

Japan and Taiwan have expressed readiness to improve cooperation with the Philippines.

Japan wants to give planes that Manila could use for patrols in the South China Sea, such as three Beechcraft TC-90 King Air planes that could be fitted with basic surface and air surveillance radar.

Taiwan wants joint search and rescue exercises.

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