Author Topic: Asean, China debate South China Sea code  (Read 1009 times)

adroth

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Asean, China debate South China Sea code
« on: April 02, 2017, 12:37:52 AM »
Asean, China debate South China Sea code
31 Mar 2017 at 04:27 5,111 viewed0 comments
WRITER: KYODO NEWS

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asean/1224076/asean-china-debate-south-china-sea-code

< Edited >

The code of conduct would bring legally binding force to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed by the grouping and China in 2002. It bans the use of force in the South China Sea.

According to the Asean sources, at Thursday's meeting China took the lead in presenting its own outline, which was fiercely debated by the Philippines, Vietnam, and Singapore.

The Philippines and Vietnam, which contest China's claims to parts of the sea, took particular issue with some of the content.

Sinagtala

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Re: Asean, China debate South China Sea code
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2017, 01:11:29 AM »
IMHO, ASEAN might not be able to adopt an effective and binding code of conduct as long as the consensus rule prevails in their decision- making process. The consensus rule may be considered as ASEAN's Achilles heel. This was observed during the ASEAN Regional Forum held in Cambodia in 2012 wherein for the first time in 45 years, ASEAN countries failed to reach an agreement regarding a joint statement mentioning the South China Sea dispute.

In the perspective of former PH ambassadors, while the United Nations Security Council has the Permanent 5 with their veto powers, the 10-member ASEAN has 10 countries having a veto power each, thus preventing ASEAN to be more effective, or even reach an agreement (but this does not apply always.)
"I know that I know nothing." - Socrates

dr demented

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Re: Asean, China debate South China Sea code
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2017, 12:52:26 PM »
http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=&sid=&nid=&rid=981065

Quote
PHL optimistic for completion of framework for code of conduct in West Philippine Sea by mid-2017
By Leslie D. Venzon

MANILA, April 19 (PNA) -- The Philippines is optimistic that the framework for a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea will be completed within the country’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit this year.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said they hoped to finish the framework of the code within target by mid-2017.

“There is a strong level of commitment between the ASEAN and China to discuss and complete this framework of the code of conduct,” he said in a press briefing.

Bolivar said the ASEAN and China would then start negotiating for the actual code after coming up with the framework.

“That will be the basis for the negotiation of the actual code of conduct,” he said.

The code of conduct was meant to manage territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea in a peaceful way.

Several countries have made competing claims over the West Philippine Sea, including China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Bolivar said the West Philippine Sea would remain to be among the important topics to be discussed by the leaders of ASEAN members when they meet here next week.

“ASEAN wants to maintain centrality as a peaceful force in the region. Definitely, all these issues which are causing tensions right now, I’m sure will be discussed by the leaders,” Bolivar said.

The country will host the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings from April 26 to 29.

He said a chairman statement will be issued after next week’s summit and meetings.

ASEAN member states also include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Bolivar said China would participate in ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings slated in November. (PNA)

dr demented

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Re: Asean, China debate South China Sea code
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2017, 12:34:05 AM »
https://amti.csis.org/isnt-coc-youre-looking/


This Isn’t the COC You’re Looking For

By Gregory Poling | June 15, 2017
AMTI Update   

On May 18, China’s foreign ministry announced that Chinese and Southeast Asian negotiators had reached agreement on a draft “framework” for a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea. Some misreported the development, claiming that the two sides were on the verge of an accord to jointly manage the world’s most complex maritime dispute. Officials in Beijing were happy to let that narrative spread, while Southeast Asian officials hesitated to set the record straight and invite criticism. Despite the hype, the framework is not the long-mooted COC; it isn’t even a guarantee that China and ASEAN will ever negotiate one. Instead it is a delaying tactic and a public relations coup for Beijing—one taken from a playbook China has been running on ASEAN for 15 years, ever since it concluded the non-binding Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave away the game during a June 12 press conference with his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan, making clear that Beijing isn’t even willing to discuss the substance of a COC yet:

I think as long as we continue to enhance mutual trust, deepen cooperation and get rid of interference from inside and outside the region, maybe more of interference from the outside, and after necessary preparatory work by all parties, we will be able to hold substantive consultations on the COC texts at a proper time until we reach important regional rules.

China and ASEAN inked the DOC in 2002, finalized guidelines for its implementation in 2011, and spent much of the last year negotiating a mysterious “framework” agreement. How much more “preparatory work” is needed before Beijing deems it the “proper time” for “substantive consultations” on a COC? The question is, of course, rhetorical. China has no intention of negotiating a COC with ASEAN—at least not one that would be robust enough to manage tensions in the South China Sea. Beijing is unwilling to make any of the concessions that would be necessary for such an agreement.

The text of the “framework” remains secret, at least until after it is submitted to the Chinese and ASEAN foreign ministers during their August summit in Manila. But we know enough to be skeptical if not downright dismissive. A draft obtained by the AFP described the agreement as “a set of norms to guide the conduct of parties and promote maritime cooperation in the South China Sea.” That sounds an awful lot like the DOC—a set of non-binding norms to try and guide conduct rather than hard-and-fast rules to constrain it. ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh rightly pointed out in April that to be effective, a COC would need to be legally binding. But the foreign ministers of Malaysia and the Philippines have confirmed that the framework does not call for the eventual COC to meet that mark.

And that is not the only unresolved issue. China and ASEAN members have had no real discussions on where the framework, or an eventual COC, would apply. It is not as simple as saying “the South China Sea.” Would Beijing agree that the maritime space around the Paracel Islands are included, or just the Spratlys? What about Scarborough Shoal? Conversely, would all waters and seabed inside the nine-dash line be covered? That would mean waters and resources hundreds of miles from any disputed islets, off the coasts of Indonesia’s Natuna Islands for example.

The list goes on. According to Ian Storey of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, the draft framework includes “references to incident prevention and management, and establishing mechanisms to monitor the COC’s implementation” but no details of how to do so. Similarly, there have been no concrete discussions on how to pursue joint conservation, joint resource development, law enforcement cooperation, safe encounters between military forces, or the inevitable disagreements over interpretation of the accord. In other words, China and ASEAN have not negotiated any of the difficult issues that would be included in a real COC.

So why the hype over the framework? Officials in both Beijing and Manila have been successful selling the “agreement” to sympathetic media and casual observers as something more than it is. After a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated most of Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea last July, Chinese officials were eager to avoid the expected diplomatic fallout. Luckily for them, Rodrigo Duterte had taken office as president of the Philippines just two weeks before and was eager to differentiate his administration from that of his predecessor by offering Beijing a diplomatic olive branch.

After seven years of steadily escalating tensions in the South China Sea, many others in the region were willing to give Manila’s more accommodating policy a chance, especially after the U.S. presidential election threw American commitment to the region and international law into question. Even those who remain skeptical of China’s intentions and the COC’s prospects, especially Singapore and Vietnam, have ended up hostage to the framework process. If they do not go through the motions and voice support, they will stand accused of playing spoilers and face retaliation from Beijing, as Singapore already has for its support of Manila’s arbitration case.

All of this means that next month, barring delays, the foreign ministers of China and ASEAN will agree to a list of vague aspirations that will look a lot like prior lists of vague aspirations reached over the last 15 years. Observers who put faith in this olive branch will be disappointed and a year will have been wasted, for everyone but China. While ASEAN claimants have been on their best behavior amid the framework discussions, China has continued to militarize its artificial islands and add new capacity to monitor, patrol, and project power throughout the South China Sea. When other claimants decide to try a different tack, they will find the environment more hostile to their interests and more skewed in favor of China than it was before the framework.

With any luck, the disappointing text that emerges this year will catalyze a more creative diplomatic effort among the Southeast Asian claimants. China is not yet willing to hold real negotiations on a COC, but that doesn’t mean that others must sit on their hands indefinitely. The ASEAN claimants should agree among themselves which maritime areas they consider truly in dispute and therefore within the scope of a potential COC. They should begin discussions on mechanisms for joint resource extraction, environmental and fisheries cooperation, and coordination of law enforcement activities, among other issues. That would amount to a real “framework” on a COC.

Those discussions shouldn’t be hobbled by ASEAN’s consensus-based decision-making; in fact, they shouldn’t take place under the ASEAN umbrella at all. The foreign ministers of Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam held the first two meetings of a new claimants working group in 2014 (Brunei was invited but did not participate). That effort should be revived and expanded to include other involved parties, especially Indonesia and Singapore. Outside partners like Australia, India, Japan, and the United States can offer technical assistance if requested and lend their diplomatic support to the effort. Such an endeavor will help set a baseline for future discussions with Beijing and will cast China as the one slow-walking the COC process. It might even amplify voices within China that see more value in negotiating with ASEAN than a return to diplomatic isolation on the issue.

dr demented

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Re: Asean, China debate South China Sea code
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2018, 02:34:30 PM »
https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/06/29/1829040/asean-china-agree-pursue-south-china-sea-code-consultations

Quote
ASEAN, China agree to pursue South China Sea code consultations

Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - June 29, 2018 - 11:56am

MANILA, Philippines — Senior officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China have agreed to move forward with consultations on the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).

The officials recently met in China's Hunan province for the 15th Senior Official's Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea.

The Chinese government said that consultations on the COC will be based on the established framework so as to come up with a unified draft document.

"All participants agreed that we will peacefully resolve the South China Sea disputes through negotiations, control differences within the framework set out by regional rules, enhance mutual trust and prevent unexpected incidents on the sea through cooperation, and jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing Thursday.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said that all participants in the meeting acknowledged the "sound and stable" situation in the South China Sea at the moment.

The ASEAN and China senior officials all affirmed the need for a comprehensive and effective implementation of the DOC.

Meanwhile, China criticized "non-regional" parties "hyping-up" the South China Sea dispute.

"China and other regional countries have more reasons than any non-regional parties to hold dear peace and navigation freedom and security in the South China Sea, considering our own interests. Some external forces have been trying whatever they can to muddy the waters in the South China Sea, including through hyping up the non-existent proposition that navigation freedom and security is somewhat affected," Lu said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not specifically mention any country but it has been known that Beijing had been calling out Washington for "playing up" the militarization of artificial islands in the disputed waters.

Lu called on countries outside the region to respect efforts made by concerned countries to promote peace and stability in the South China Sea.

"They should refrain from stirring up trouble out of nothing," Lu said.

Last year, China agreed to work on the COC for the peaceful resolution of the maritime dispute. Beijing made the announcement after a bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Vietnam in November 2017.

In August 2017, the ASEAN and China adopted a framework that would serve as an outline for the code. Its main objective was to establish a rules-based framework to guide the conduct of parties in the disputed waterway.

dr demented

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Re: Asean, China debate South China Sea code
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2018, 01:27:10 PM »
https://amti.csis.org/the-dangerous-quest-for-a-code-of-conduct-in-the-south-china-sea/

Quote
The Dangerous Quest for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea
By Huong Le Thu | July 13, 2018
AMTI Update   

The long and bumpy process of consultations on a code of conduct (COC) between China and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has gained some momentum since the July 2016 South China Sea arbitration award. China communicated its willingness to make some progress by adopting a framework for the COC last year. Officials from China and ASEAN met for the  23rd meeting of the Joint Working Group on the implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Vietnam in March and for the 15th Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC in China in June. At both meetings they exchanged views on a potential COC.

These developments suggest that there is some progress, or at least growing political will, to finalize a COC, including debates on whether the agreement should be legally-binding and over including the interests of non-claimant states that make use of the South China Sea. But the COC process poses more challenges than hope for resolving the disputes. The COC has become a “holy grail,” highly desired but unattainable. A major concern should be that this holy grail could turn into a tool for China to legitimize its actions in the South China Sea by engaging in the process while subverting its spirit. To this end, the challenges to the COC process are likely to be:

    China will use the COC talks to delay, exploit, and divert focus from any ASEAN consensus on the South China Sea;
    China will seek to include unhelpful and imprecise language in the COC which it could then use to justify its actions;
    China will nonetheless claim the COC as a diplomatic success and will use it as cover to avoid criticism while still pursuing its unilateral strategy to control the South China Sea.

It has been over 25 years since ASEAN’s first official commitment, in 1992, to peacefully resolve the disputes in the South China Sea. Patience has been a necessary virtue for the region to work on any issues of contention, and it took another 10 years for the group to work out the non-binding DOC with China in 2002. For 16 years since then, the parties have been in pursuit of a COC that would help resolve the resource-draining and tension-generating disputes. But China has time on its side. That time has allowed China to successfully build its capabilities, especially by constructing artificial islands in the Spratlys in recent years. The lengthy and unproductive negotiations over the COC meanwhile have diverted regional attention away from the severity of Beijing’s disruptive actions around the South China Sea.

The long-stalled, unproductive negotiations have already had a detrimental effect on regional multilateralism. The South China Sea issue has exposed ASEAN’s institutional weaknesses, especially how its consensus-based decision-making leads to impasses. Just one member disagreeing with the content of a joint statement can silence the group’s voice. The most oft-cited example was Cambodia’s obstruction of the ASEAN joint communique in 2012 when it served as organization’s chair. Many have associated Phnom Penh’s lack of regional solidarity with its allegiance to and economic dependency on China.

Moreover, the South China Sea has become a “fatigued” theme which many ASEAN chairs have come to dread during regional meetings. Even this year’s chair Singapore, with its notoriously skilled diplomacy, prefers to focus on other issues, like counter-terrorism, cyber security, and smart cities, where it sees more room for cooperation, or at least less obstruction from pro-Beijing members of the grouping.

The longer the COC negotiations take, the more advantageous China’s position will become as it extends ever greater control over the resources of the South China Sea, for instance by sending its fishing fleet throughout the South China Sea and preventing other claimants from exploiting natural resources within their waters and seabed as it did recently when Vietnam attempted new oil and gas drilling. Even more conciliatory approaches like that of the current Philippine government seem unlikely to divert China from its strategy of gaining sole control over the South China Sea. Under President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila has opted for a strategy of embracing China. Not only did Duterte disregard the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling, effectively abandoning the legal victory and dealing a blow to the international rules-based-order — but he has chosen to pursue talks on joint development  of oil and gas resources with China (though no agreement seems forthcoming). Nonetheless, Beijing continues to build up military facilities, including on the Philippine continental shelf at Mischief Reef, and harass Filipino fishers and military planes and ships.

A successful COC would be a major victory for all involved. It would ward off diplomatic criticism of Beijing by the international community and show that China can act responsibly and in accordance with the international rules-based order. But a vague or ineffective agreement—which is a far more likely outcome—would serve only the interests of Beijing. With such a diplomatic success in hand, China could and likely would continue with its plans to unilaterally control the waters and airspace of the South China Sea.

If the COC process continues on its current trajectory, and China succeeds in filling the document with vague articles that would have little impact on its behavior, it would effectively be abusing the rules-based order to its own benefit. Instead of protecting against unilateral actions in the South China Sea, the rules-based order in the form of the COC could assist and justify China’s expansion and ultimately its sole control of the South China Sea. Other regional actors need to recognize these traps of concluding a counter-productive COC, and resist the urge to reach an agreement just to be able to say they made progress. Instead, they should insist on negotiating the terms and conditions of a real COC, one that would establish effective rules-based dispute management mechanisms, not one that would by-pass them for the sake of an easy “win.”