Published: Sun, August 13, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

China, ASEAN Approve Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct

China, ASEAN Approve Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct

Expect China not to be very friendly toward the United States, Australia or Japan in the near future, as there is an old proverb in China: "If you don't save my face, I won't save yours".

"The COC not only serves regional trust-building, but also sets a foundation for long-term peace and stability in the South China Sea", he told Xinhua. Thanks to our considerate efforts, the current situation in the South China Sea is showing positive momentum.

The joint statement issued after the latest ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting did not mention China by name, only emphasizing the importance of "non-militarization" of the South China Sea.

Undoubtedly, from the Chinese perspective, the U.S. -Australia-Japan joint statement seriously broke the top hidden rule of foreign diplomacy: never make others lose face publicly.

In what is widely seen as a victory for Beijing yesterday (Sunday, August 6) Asean members declined to say in their joint statement that the code of conduct with China would be "legally binding".

China is sensitive to even a veiled reference by ASEAN to its seven reclaimed reefs, three of which have runways, missile batteries, radars and, according to some experts, the capability to accommodate fighter jets.

On July 25, Wang urged ASEAN to reject "nonregional forces" that want to stir up trouble in the South China Sea, an apparent reference to the US and Japan, which have carried out maritime exercises there.

"However, there is sentiment across ASEAN that for this engagement to be truly productive and beneficial not just to ASEAN but to our region and the world, we need to ensure that there is a mutual openness and communication amongst us", Cayetano said.

The North also sent its Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to the annual meeting.

In June, China cancelled a military gathering between the two countries, possibly over South China Sea disputes.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China had agreed to start the formal COC consultations if "the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and if there is no major disruption from outside parties".

Wang's stipulations again call into question China's commitment to formulating an effective code of conduct. They also called on China to respect an worldwide arbitration ruling a year ago that dismissed much of the country's claims in the sea.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono later clarified that they were not implying that Philippines was not heeding the ruling, but they were noting it was an important and legally binding decision.

In a press briefing, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) acting Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said foreign ministers of 10-member regional bloc and China adopted the COC framework at the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) and related meetings held here.

Kono said at a press conference Monday that Japan supported the U.S. in its activities in the South China Sea to ensure freedom of navigation and in a veiled reference to China, opposed "any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force".

Like this: