BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, BRUNEI—ASEAN leaders agreed on a “two-step approach” to deal with territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
In a press conference after the ASEAN summit, summit chair Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah reported on the “progress” in dealing with maritime disputes with the leaders reaffirming their commitment to a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes and agreeing to work with China for the “early conclusion” of a Code of Conduct (COC) “on the basis of consensus.”
“We have agreed on what I see as a two-step approach. Firstly, the overlapping claims are for the claimant states to deal with. Secondly, both ASEAN and China wish to promote a calm and peaceful atmosphere and to urgently work on the Code of Conduct,” Bolkiah said.
“We would like all parties concerned to seize the current positive momentum and to reach an agreement on the Code of Conduct. And we all agree to encourage continuing discussion, dialogue, and consultation in all levels especially among claimant countries and to keep the lines of communication open.”
The leaders also called “for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties between ASEAN and China.”
Bolkiah said that “practical procedures” should be put in place to prevent “misunderstandings” in situations where, for instance, fishermen taken temporary shelter in disputed areas in case there is a storm.
“In my view, it is important to have in place practical procedures which could assist in avoiding undesired incidents at sea. For instance, if there is a major storm, fishermen may need to take temporary shelter in disputed areas. Such innocent incidents may be misinterpreted and, therefore, it would be appropriate to have established procedures, for example, having hotlines to avoid misunderstandings,” Bolkiah said, adding that he has conducted will continue to do consultations with the concerned countries.
According to the chairman’s statement released at the end of the summit, the leaders committed to abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to ensure “the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, without resorting to the threat or use of force, while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities.”
The leaders agreed to seize “the positive momentum” following the 19th ASEAN-China senior officials’ consultations and “work actively” with China on the way forward for the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) based on consensus.”
The leaders also expressed concern over the situation in the Korean peninsula and encouraged North Korea to “comply fully with its obligations under all relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and to its commitments” under the six-party talks.
The leaders called on the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the resumption of the six-party talks.
“We emphasized the importance of dialogue aimed at promoting mutual understanding and confidence among all parties concerned with ensuring peace, security, and stability on the Korean peninsula,” the chairman’s statement read.
The leaders expressed support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
“We reaffirm our support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people for an independent state of Palestine and a two-state solution where both countries and peoples can live side by side in peace,” the statement said.
“We called on all parties to make efforts for the resumption of peace talks and remove obstacles related thereto, in particular the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”