Asean top diplomats air concern over recent activities in SCS

Asean top diplomats air concern over recent activities in SCS

MANILA – Some Southeast Asian top diplomats at the Asean Foreign Ministers’ (AMM) Retreat on Thursday aired concerns about the recent activities in the South China Sea, described to have”eroded trust and confidence” in the region.

“We discussed the situation in the South China Sea, during which concerns were expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations, activities, and serious incidents in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security, and stability in the region,” the AMM chairman’s statement read.

“We reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation,” it added.

It underscored the need for peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The group also called for “non-militarization and self-restraint” in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states.

The AMM Retreat is the first scheduled meeting under Brunei’s chairmanship in 2021.

During the virtual conference, the top diplomats also affirmed support to freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.

But amid concerns about recent activities in the region, they noted the “continuously improving cooperation” between Asean and China, citing “progress” in negotiations toward the early conclusion of the COC.

The two parties are currently working to continue the second reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text amid the evolving pandemic situation.

“We emphasized the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the COC negotiations, and thus welcomed practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risk of accidents, misunderstandings, and miscalculation,” the statement read.

“We stressed the importance of undertaking confidence-building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties; and we reaffirmed the importance of upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS,” it added. (PNA)

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