ASEAN airs concern on new China sea law

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 20 2014 09:53 AM | Updated as of Jan 20 2014 05:53 PM

MANILA - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has expressed concern over recent developments in the South China Sea, after China imposed a controversial new fisheries law requiring all foreign vessels to obtain approval from Chinese authorities before engaging in fishing or surveying activities.

China earlier imposed an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea. Both initiatives have been widely condemned by neighboring countries and the US.

Foreign ministers from the ASEAN region reaffirmed the ASEAN’s six-point principles on the South China Sea, highlighting the importance of peace and stability, maritime security, freedom of navigation and flight above the sea during a ministerial meeting in Bagan, Myanmar that ended last Friday.

The delegates discussed ways to further contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the region.

They urged all parties concerned to resolve disputes by peaceful means in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The foreign ministers also called for continued self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea.

They urged all parties to undertake full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in order to build an environment of mutual trust and confidence, and emphasized the need to expeditiously work toward the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Union Minister for Foreign Affairs U Wunna Maung Lwin presided over the meeting as chair of ASEAN for 2014.

The Foreign Ministers’ Retreat is the first in a series of ASEAN meetings under Myanmar’s ASEAN chairmanship, with the theme “Moving forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community.”

The ministers discussed the priorities of ASEAN for 2014 during the retreat. The issues include ASEAN’s efforts to speed up community building and ASEAN integration, and to move forward to the realization of the Master Plan for ASEAN Community.

Earlier, the Philippines rejected China’s call on Manila to meet halfway on the new Chinese fisheries law, saying it was one of the unilateral measures implemented by Beijing to advance its position of undisputed sovereignty over the entire South China Sea.