ASEAN ministers express serious concern on seas
(The Philippine Star) - November 20, 2015 - 9:00am

KUALA LUMPUR – Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have expressed serious concern about developments in the South China Sea, where China’s construction of artificial islands has fueled tensions with other claimants.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, who hosted the meeting yesterday, said the ministers renewed their call for the “expeditious establishment of an effective Code of Conduct” that will govern behavior in the disputed area.

Ten Southeast Asian heads of state and nine world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, are meeting in Malaysia to discuss disputes over the South China Sea as well as trade issues and terrorism.  

Aman said yesterday ASEAN reaffirmed the importance to maintain peace, security, stability and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

He did not mention any countries. However, China, which claims most of the South China Sea, has angered its neighbors with its recent island-building.

Taiwan and ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also have overlapping claims across the sea.

The US has recently responded with military maneuvers near the islands to show it won’t allow freedom of navigation to be compromised in seas that are crucial to political stability in Asia and global trade.

ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh said yesterday the region needs a legally binding agreement to ensure that a maritime dispute with China is resolved peacefully, because an existing declaration of amity has proved to be useless.

The 10 members of the ASEAN and China signed the declaration, known by its acronym DOC, in 2002, promising in good faith to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without “resorting to the threat or use of force.”

“The DOC has never been fully and effectively implemented and that’s why we need a new agreement which would be legally binding,” Minh said.

He said such an agreement should be capable of not only preventing but also managing incidents such as “the ones that have been taking place.”

He did not name China but was referring to Beijing’s recent land reclamation and the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

ACIRC AMAN ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS CHINA CODE OF CONDUCT MALAYSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH AMAN PHILIPPINES AND VIETNAM PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SECRETARY GENERAL LE LUONG MINH SOUTH CHINA SEA TEN SOUTHEAST ASIAN
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