Vietnam: ASEAN, China talks for South China Sea code of conduct should resume

By Viet Anh   June 27, 2020 | 10:58 am GMT+7
Vietnam: ASEAN, China talks for South China Sea code of conduct should resume
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at the concluding press conference of the 36th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, June 26, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

Vietnam has called for a resumption of negotiations between ASEAN and China on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC).

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, speaking at the concluding press conference of the 36th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi on Friday, said: "We call on the parties to exercise self-restraint and avoid acts that further complicate the situation, and fully observe international laws, especially implement the DOC [Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea] in its entirety, resume negotiations on a binding, effective COC that is in accordance with international laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS]."

He said the Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted the discussions on the COC between ASEAN and China, which have been ongoing since 2002 for developing legally binding rules in what Vietnam calls the East Sea.

"In this context, Vietnam together with ASEAN has worked with related parties to exercise self-restraint, avoid acts that further complicate the situation, observe international laws."

Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung on Tuesday said at the last meeting on the COC held in October 2019 in Da Lat Town in Vietnam, the two sides had agreed to prepare for the second reading of the COC draft.

They are expected to discuss this issue at a bilateral senior officials' meeting on July 1.

At the 36th ASEAN Summit, leaders of member countries discussed recent developments in the region and world. They agreed to continue promoting peace, stability, security, safety, freedom of navigation and overflight in the region through dialogue, cooperation and compliance with international laws.

Phuc said peace, security and stability in the region in general and the South China Sea in particular are "a common interest and aspiration of the community," especially ASEAN.

At the summit, the leaders emphasized ASEAN's determination to make the South China Sea a sea of cooperation and development, security and safety, and worthy of its position as a key component in regional exchanges.

They discussed means to control the Covid-19 pandemic, promote economic recovery and inter-association cooperation and prevent a second wave of the pandemic.

They agreed to establish an ASEAN fund to respond to Covid-19, a regional reserve for emergency medical supplies, and develop a disease response process.

Referring to the U.S.-China competition, the Vietnamese leader said both are leading partners of importance for countries around the world.

Both have a number of frameworks for economic cooperation with ASEAN, both bilateral and multilateral, which offer an important basis for maintaining and promoting cooperation.

"ASEAN always wants an Asia-Pacific region of peace, stability, prosperity, and cooperation for development, and definitely does not want to have to choose a side."

The biggest concern for countries, including the U.S. and China, is to repel Covid-19 and revive the economy, he pointed out.

Vietnam therefore hopes they could promote their similarities, overcome their differences, build trust, and promote cooperation to serve the interests of the world and the region, he said.

As the ASEAN chair this year, Vietnam is working with other members to strengthen solidarity, organize conferences involving China and the U.S. on jointly combating the pandemic, maintain trade and supply chains for goods and services, create favorable conditions for trade and investment chains, and promote economic recovery in the region and the world, he said.

He added that at the association's first ever online summit, leaders of member nations reached consensus on many issues, and the ASEAN Leaders' Statement has been agreed upon.

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