MANILA – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China have agreed to “exercise restraint” in the disputed South China Sea and to avoid activities that would provoke tensions in the region.
The commitment was made during the Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Chongqing, China on June 7.
According to the joint statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi who co-chaired the meeting, both Asean and China will “enhance and promote maritime security, uphold the freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”
Both parties also agreed to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
Several littoral states, including China, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Malaysia have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.
In May, the Philippines protested the incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels in the vicinity of the Pagasa islands, demanding that China withdraw these vessels through a note verbale.
The recent development follows the flurry of diplomatic protests filed against China over the sighting of Chinese militia vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef as early as March 7.
Asean and China also pledged to “fully and effectively” implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety, including strengthening practical maritime cooperation to build mutual trust and confidence.
At the same time, they emphasize the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the Code of Conduct negotiations. (PNA)