Saturday, 18 November, 2017

ASEAN, China officially approve draft COC framework

Motorists drive past an Armoured Personnel Carrier parked near the venue of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Pasay city metro Manila Philippines ASEAN, China officially approve draft COC framework
Lamar Ellis | 07 August, 2017, 01:58

In a joint communiqué of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers' Meeting released Sunday night, ministers said they had "discussed extensively" matter related to the sea, parts of which are subject to maritime disputes.

Hours before the ASEAN minister's statement, the US presented a draft United Nations resolution toughening sanctions on North Korea with a sweeping ban on exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood that could deprive Pyongyang of $1 billion in annual revenues.

"Pessimists will see this as a gambit favorable to a China determined to make the majority of the South China Sea its domestic lake".

Foreign ministers in Manila over the weekend emphasized self-restraint in the South China Sea and reaffirmed their countries' commitment to a Code of Conduct in the region.

Representatives from the Philippines said at ASEAN, they and China are expected to consider and approve a Code of Conduct for issues bordering on the South China Sea, which is highly disputed by multiple countries due to its rich resources.

That pact, the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, has been largely ignored, particularly by China, which reclaimed seven reefs and can now deploy combat planes on three, besides defense systems already in place.

A half-century ago when ASEAN came into being, with just five members, now expanded to 10, China was enmeshed in the Cultural Revolution, Mao Zedong was still very much alive, the Gang of Four was asserting itself and the rise and rise of Deng Xiaoping was 11 years away.

Malaysia also pushed for some tougher language, including with a reference to "military assets" in the contested waters, according to the draft and discussions with diplomats involved in the discussions.

The document reflects the consensus of the ministers on issues concerning ASEAN.

The Philippines used to be the most vocal critic of Beijing's expansionism.

The South China Sea chapter in the latest draft communique, a negotiated text subject to changes, is a watered-down version of one issued in Laos previous year.

China has steadfastly opposed any mention in Asean statements of its island-building in the disputed waters, its reported installation of a missile defense system on the new features and an arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing's historic claims to the strategic waters. They said they have tasked senior officials to start negotiating on the Code of Conduct with China.

But security analysts point out that the framework comes 15 years after negotiations on the issue first began, and China has used that time to cement its claims with the artificial islands.

The role of the Philippines as 2017 chair of Asean has helped China keep a lid on discord.

Another pressing issue in Manila will be the growing terrorism threat in the region.

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