ASEAN chairman's statement stresses need of "non-militarization" in disputed waters
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reiterated the importance of "non-militarization and self-restraint" in the conduct of activities by all the claimant countries in the disputed South China Sea.
This was contained in the chairman's statement of the 31st ASEAN Summit released by the Department of Foreign Affairs three days after the Southeast Asian leaders' meeting in Pasay City.
"(W)e further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, emphasized the importance of non - militarization and self - restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC (Declaration of Conduct of Parries) that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea," said the Philippines, as chairman of the recently concluded ASEAN Summit.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier raised the concern of ASEAN over China's militarization in the disputed waters.
China has equipped its artificial islands in the South China Sea with military equipment.
The statement also stressed "the need to adhere to the peaceful resolution of disputes , in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)."
The 10 ASEAN members also reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, maritime safety and security, rules-based order and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.
In the recent 20th ASEAN-China Summit, the regional bloc and Beijing agreed to start the discussion on the COC.
"We discussed the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the improving relations between ASEAN and China and, in this regard, are encouraged by the adoption of the framework of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea (COC), which will facilitate the work and negotiation for the conclusion of a substantive and effective COC," Chairman's statement said.
By early 2018, it said the 23rd ASEAN-China Joint Working Group Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC will be held in Vietnam. Celerina Monte/DMS