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Negotiations on COC in S. China Sea favor peace, stability

(People's Daily Online)

14:42, July 11, 2012

Edited and Translated by Zhu Rui, People's Daily Online

From July 9 to 13, a series of foreign ministers' meetings, including the 45th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the ASEAN-China, Japan and ROK (10+3) Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the ASEAN-China (10+1) Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the Second East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers' Meeting and the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Foreign Ministers' Meeting, will be held in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

Some foreign media speculate that each side concerned will conduct negotiations on the legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, which is expected to make further progress.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. It is the first political document about the issue of South China Sea, which aims to safeguard the stability of the South China Sea, increase mutual trust and push forward cooperation. The Chinese side clearly states that China is willing to accelerate the implementation of the Declaration and carry out pragmatic cooperation with ASEAN nations while attempting to formulate COC.

Secretary-General of ASEAN Dr. Surin Pitsuwan recently said, although COC is designed for the entire region, territorial disputes must be resolved through bilateral joint efforts.

The issue of South China Sea is nothing but one of regional affairs in ASEAN, which will not affect the cooperative progress between ASEAN and China, said Li Jianxiong, Director of Public Affairs Office of the ASEAN Secretariat.

The complexity of the issue hinders negotiation progress and common development, said Dr. Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Peace and Cooperation.

Some experts believe that another reason for the slowness of negotiation is that some nations intend to multi-lateralize and internationalize the issue of South China Sea, drag US, Japan and other nations which do not claim sovereignty over the South China Sea into the issue, or seek to reach a communique within ASEAN, and then negotiate with China, which just complicates the issue of South China Sea.

The South China dispute is not a problem between China and the entire ASEAN, but between China and some ASEAN nations which claim sovereignty over the South China Sea. Therefore, the ultimate solution of the dispute certainly depends on the agreement reached by those nations, said Chen Gang, Research Fellow at the East Asian Institute (EAI), National University of Singapore.

He said dialogue and negotiation is an effective mechanism to solve the problem. Multi-lateral negotiation is hard to implement while bilateral negotiation is a practical channel.

In response to doubts about the effect of COC, Chen Gang added that if all sides come to an unanimous agreement, even if COC is, strictly speaking, not legally binding, it will to some extent restrict the conduct of parties, which plays a positive role in stabilizing the situation in the South China Sea and is beneficial to regional peace and stability.

Read the Chinese version: 南海行为准则谈判应有助和平稳定, source: People's Daily, author: Han Shuo and Wang Hui

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