by Lu Yu
July 22, 2012 (TSR) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has agreed on a six-point statement on the South China Sea issue that goes in line with China’s ever-lasting will of turning the disputed waters into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.
Friday’s statement was an official response to the South China Sea issue after the ASEAN failed to reach a joint communique at the just-concluded foreign minister’s meeting in Phnom Penh.
The statement covers the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), the need for an early conclusion of a regional code of conduct, the full respect for the universally recognized principles of international law, the continued exercise of self restraint and non-use of force by all parties, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. On the issue of South China Sea as well as other international disputes, China has been pursuing a policy of seeking peaceful solutions based on one-on-one negotiations.
In response to the six-point principles, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China values its relationship with the ASEAN and is willing to work together with the group’s members to implement the DOC and “open to consultations with the ASEAN on the conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.”
Looking back on last week’s ASEAN meeting, the 10-nation bloc failed to issue a joint communique for the first time since it was founded in 1967.
That failure was due to the Philippines’ and Vietnam’s undue requests to include the bilateral maritime dispute in the document and attempts to hype their disagreements with China.
Most ASEAN members have sent a clear signal that they will not meddle in the bilateral disputes and value stable and fruitful bilateral ties with China.
Friday’s six-point principles, which are in accord with the DOC, reaffirmed the bloc’s stance of pursuing a peaceful resolution of conflicts.
The measure also hinted at the bloc’s willingness to maintain close cooperation with China and reject any inappropriate moves against the DOC.
Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Friday that ASEAN “does not stand up against China, but negotiates with China based on the DOC.”
As the saying goes, “one flower makes no garland.” The principles, which came after Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa’s “intensive shuttle diplomacy” to restore ASEAN unity, once again display the aggressive ASEAN members’ isolated role within the bloc on the South China Sea issue.
Though they agreed not to complicate and intensify the South China Sea issue under the DOC, the members adopted unilateral moves that severely infringed on China’s maritime territorial sovereignty. Only when signatory countries first abide by the DOC can they proceed to sign and enforce a legally binding “code of conduct.”