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Jakarta optimistic on South China Sea Code of Conduct

By LEONARDUS JEGHO in Jakarta | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-09-18 14:35

Indonesia is optimistic that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states will be able to make breakthroughs in negotiations for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

"As for Indonesia, we are quite optimistic that we (ASEAN) can make a number of breakthroughs when it comes to negotiations on the COC," Sidharto R. Suryodiopuro, Indonesia's director general for ASEAN cooperation, told a discussion forum in Jakarta on Friday.

Held by the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia, the discussion aimed to review the 43rd ASEAN Summit 2023 in Jakarta early this month under Indonesia's chairmanship.

Suryodipuro's optimism was in response to another keynote speaker, Shafiah F. Muhibat, deputy executive director for research at Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, who said there had been high expectations in the public about what Indonesia could have actually achieved as the chair with regards to issues such as the South China Sea disputes.

Analysts noted that the chairman's statement of the 43rd ASEAN Summit makes no special mention of the negotiations.

Muhibat said, "We can see either as criticism or more as a disappointment because there, as I say, are very high expectations about what Indonesia could achieve throughout this year with regard to the COC process and as a whole in the management of the South China Sea disputes."

On this criticism Suryodipuro said the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea, or DOC, signed by ASEAN and China 21 years ago, had shaped behavior of countries around the South China Sea. The DOC has served as guidelines for ASEAN members and China to maintain peace and stability based on the spirit of cooperation and mutual trust.

"Almost no one and perhaps no freedom of navigation was hampered in the South China Sea," he said, hailing the achievements made under the COC.

Robert Matheus Michael Tene, deputy secretary-general of ASEAN for Political-Security Community, told participants at the meeting that so far there had been many rounds of COC discussions or negotiations.

During Indonesia's chairmanship the second reading or discussion of the COC draft was completed by almost midyear. Indonesia therefore plans to host the next round of COC draft discussion by the end of this year.

The COC is aimed to achieve a stable, safe and peaceful South China Sea and it reflects international norms, principles and rules.

ASEAN and China agreed on guidelines to accelerate negotiations for the COC in the South China Sea during the meeting in Jakarta in July between ASEAN foreign ministers and Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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