Singapore called on the Association of Southeast Asian nations to use diplomacy and dialogue to settle disputes. The move comes amid growing territorial disputes between China and other littoral states in the South China Sea (SCS).
Speaking to ANI, Ong Keng Yong, Ambassador-at-Large at the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Tuesday said, “There must be a conclusion, otherwise we cannot reassure our shipping community, international companies dealing with business in this part of the world. I think the important thing now is that both sides have to sit down and go through all the possible scenarios and options and then come to a commonsensical conclusion. If they maintain their respective position, we cannot get any conclusion. “
Back in 2002, China and ASEAN agreed on a Declaration of Conduct of Parties (DOC), but the progress on a Code of Conduct (COC) has been slow amid an increasing risk of conflict.
The COC would safeguard the rights and interests of all parties to SCS. China and ASEAN are currently working to speed up the conclusion of negotiations for the issuance of a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the SCS.
For the last two years, most of the negotiations over the South China Sea, the thorniest issue between China and ASEAN, have been conducted online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2022, the two parties resumed the physical textual negotiation of the single draft COC negotiating text during the 36th Joint Working Group on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (JWG-DOC) in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
China and five other parties including four ASEAN members—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – hold competing claims in the South China Sea. China has made the most expansive claims about SCS, and an international arbitration tribunal ruled in 2016 that they lacked legal foundation.
ASEAN comprises ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.