Sep 25, 2020

ASEAN leaders bat for removal of uncertainties in South China Sea

The summit is part of the 35th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits held here and in Bangkok from November 2 to 4.

ASEAN SUMMIT. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III holds a press conference at the Impact Challenger in Nonthaburi, Thailand on Monday (Nov. 4, 2019). Dominguez talked about topics discussed during the ASEAN-China Summit on Sunday. (Presidential photo)

NONTHABURI, Thailand — Removal of uncertainties in the South China Sea was among the topics discussed during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-China Summit here Sunday.

The summit is part of the 35th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits held here and in Bangkok from November 2 to 4.

“The biggest item that the Asean discussed with China is the proposal to remove one big uncertainty and that is the uncertainty on the South China Sea. And the idea is essentially to push for the completion of the finalization of the Code of Conduct,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said in a briefing here Monday.

Other topics discussed during the Summit between the 10-country regional bloc and China are cooperation on trade and conformation of open and fair trade, he said.

China and several ASEAN countries namely the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.

Leaders of ASEAN and China target to have a Code of Conduct (COC) in place by 2021.

Dominguez said the COC is an important document that must be agreed upon by all parties to end worries on relations among ASEAN and China.

“Removal of uncertainty is definitely the major goal now but how that is to be achieved, whether we will go into a great detail mentioning specific incidents or not, is really subject to discussion among all the parties,” Dominguez said.

The Finance chief said past incidents that increased uncertainties in the disputed waters are worth mentioning in the COC.

“I think it’s very important that recognition of past incidences have to be referred to. I don’t know in detail if it will be referred to in the body of the agreement or maybe in the annex but definitely examples of how uncertainty has increased has to be taken into consideration,” he added.

Dominguez said ASEAN aims to reduce poverty, increase people’s prosperity and engage in sustainable development.

“We are among the areas in the world that will suffer from climate change and definitely enhancing the cooperation and connectivity with our very large neighbor is essential to achieve those goals,” he said.

“And the agreement between China and the ASEAN is to continue and improve the cooperation in all the fields that will improve people’s standards of living and improve the possibility of sustainable development and address risks of climate change,” he added.

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