World / Asia-Pacific

Beijing, ASEAN agree talks are right path

By Zhang Yunbi in Vientiane, Laos (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-26 03:07

China and ASEAN steered their joint statement on Monday away from an arbitration case initiated by the Philippines, reaffirming their support for South China Sea disputes being resolved by the parties directly involved.

Observers said the South China Sea situation is now on the right track after three years of chaos, which followed Manila's unilateral initiation of the case that led to the recent ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague.

The joint statement was issued after the meeting in the Laotian capital between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterparts from the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Some regional outsiders had called unsuccessfully for mention in the joint statement of the South China Sea arbitration ruling announced on July 12.

China and ASEAN said they are committed to full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was signed in 2002, and to working toward early adoption of a more-detailed code of conduct based on consensus.

The statement also commits all parties to undertaking to "resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)".

The statement said cooperation was possible in fields such as navigation safety, rescue and scientific research.

Wang Yi later told a news conference that the past three years show that the arbitration process did not end disputes "but stirred up regional tension and damaged regional stability", and it is now time to "make corrections".

Chen Qinghong, a researcher on Southeast Asian and Philippine studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said ASEAN correctly resisted the temptation to be part of the trouble that was started by Manila.

"As the Philippines will take the ASEAN chairmanship next year, it should return to what ASEAN has pursued, such as neutrality," Chen added.

Zhang Yunling, a senior researcher on Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it is now necessary for China and ASEAN to reinforce such contacts and dialogues.

"ASEAN should give full play to its role of representing the region's overall interests. Its internal coordination should be reinforced and it should stop outsiders from taking a leading role in sabotaging China-ASEAN ties," Zhang said.

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