Consensus on creating a law enforcement framework for the East Sea issue

(VOVworld) – ASEAN and China have agreed on negotiations to finalize a framework for the Code of Conduct (COC) of Parties in the East Sea in mid 2017. The result reflects a shift in Beijing’s attitude towards a complicated regional issue because it’s the first time an official specific date for the finalization of the COC.

Consensus on creating a law enforcement framework for the East Sea issue - ảnh 1

Since 2010, China and the ten ASEAN member countries have negotiated over the Code of Conduct to avoid disputes among claimants in the East Sea issue. Until 2013, both sides conducted official consultations for the legal document. Since then, there had been no major progress because the COC negotiations were delayed several times due to regional tensions.

Reaching consensus

A meeting of senior officials from China and ASEAN on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the East Sea took place on 15-16 August in Manzhouli, a northern port city in China. The ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held in Laos in July. At both events, officials fromboth sides agreed to continue implementing DOC, resolving disputes through negotiation, managing disagreements in accordance with regional regulations, enhancing maritime cooperation, and making steps towards the Code of Conduct to ensure regional peace and stability.

ASEAN and China have agreed to set up a hotline and issue a set of guidelines to avoid unintentional conflicts in the East Sea in 2014. The draft agreement on these issues is expected to be ratified at the ASEAN-China summit in Vientiane, Laos, on 7 September.

Positive changes

Given the increased tensions in the East Sea, ASEAN countries have agreed on the need to finalize the COC which binds signatories and specifies regulations on the code of conduct of parties to guarantee peace, security, and safety in the East Sea, to prevent and control conflicts, to resolve disputes by peaceful means in accordance with international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The COC will help enhance the ASEAN-China strategic partnership and maintain peace, stability, and development in the East Sea and the whole region.

Since ASEAN – China consultations on the COC began in 2013, negotiations have been delayed by China. The recent agreement on achieving a COC draft framework in mid 2017 has attracted public attention and is seen as a gesture of China’s goodwill to resolve the East Sea issue. It was reached after the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) decision on China’s “U-shaped line”, which unilaterally claims almost all of the East Sea and intrudes upon the waters of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.  

Chinese media quoted Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin as saying that Beijing wants to maintain a good relationship with ASEAN. He called it an accomplishment when both sides agreed to maintain channels for negotiation and to finalize a draft COC in mid 2017.

At the ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in July, 2016, China confirmed that it would practice self-restraint, would not complicate the situation in the East Sea, would not use or threaten to use force, and would resolve territorial disputes by peaceful means, consultation and friendly negotiations with relevant countries in accordance with international law including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Tension in the East Sea could cause unexpected incidents. ASEAN and China have been aware of the need to have a Code of Conduct to regulate their common interests in the East Sea to replace the DOC, which has been in place for more than a decade.

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