China agrees to resume ASEAN talks on South China Sea code of conduct

By Viet Anh   July 2, 2020 | 12:15 am PT
China agrees to resume ASEAN talks on South China Sea code of conduct
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung speaks at the 26th ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Consultation, held online on July 1, 2020. Photo courtesy of Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
China has committed to resuming negotiations with ASEAN on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC), interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

China and ASEAN affirmed their commitment at a meeting Wednesday to fully implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and soon resuming negotiations on a binding, effective COC.

However, China has not disclosed a specific time for the resumption of COC discussions, ongoing since 2002 to develop legally binding rules in what Vietnam calls the East Sea, Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

At the last meeting on the COC held in October 2019 in Vietnam's Da Lat, the two sides had agreed to prepare for the second reading of the COC draft.

China and ASEAN agreed on Wednesday to promote dialogue, cooperation and trust building to ensure a peaceful, secure and stable environment in the region.

The commitment was made at the 26th ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Consultation, held online as part of a series of ASEAN Senior Official Meetings to prepare for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in the second half of 2020.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung, representing the country in the role of ASEAN Chair for 2020 at the event, said the bloc would continue working closely with China to build a binding COC in accordance with international laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Dung said ASEAN has adopted a comprehensive approach to security issues amid complicated regional developments.

Dialogue, cooperation, trust building and mutual acceptance of standards play a key role in addressing all security challenges, he said.

ASEAN and China should step up partnership in capacity building to actively tackle non-conventional security challenges, he said, adding they also need to promote mutual trust and respect, adhere to international laws, practice self-restraint and peacefully settle disputes and differences.

ASEAN countries affirmed China as one of the bloc’s leading and largest trading partners, who plays an important role in maintaining peace, stability and cooperation in the region.

Chen Xiaodong, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, praised the active response by ASEAN to the Covid-19 pademic. He said despite Covid-19, two-way trade between ASEAN and China still grew steadily at 4.2 percent in the first months of the year.

China will continue to promote cooperation with ASEAN in sharing information, experience, production and dissemination of vaccines and medicine for Covid-19, Chen said, adding the country also proposed upgrading ties to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of bilateral relations in 2021.

Beijing has been ramping up its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea since the start of this year while other countries have been focused on combating the Covid-19 outbreak, raising international concerns.

It announced the establishment of the so-called "governed" administrative districts over Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands. It has sunk Vietnamese fishing vessels, unilaterally ordered a ban on fishing, claimed that harvesting vegetables on Paracel Islands can strengthen its illegal claims; sent diplomatic notes to the United Nations; made the infamous Four Sha claim, which has a broader range than the notorious nine-dash line.

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