Widodo: ASEAN must solve South China Sea row 'immediately'


Posted at Apr 27 2017 10:28 AM | Updated as of Apr 27 2017 05:13 PM

Widodo: ASEAN must solve South China Sea row 'immediately' 1
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. File Photo

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Southeast Asian nations must solve disputes in the South China Sea "immediately" ahead of a meeting with his regional counterparts in Manila.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations must forge a "mutual agreement" on the sea row before talking with China, which has vast claims to the resource-rich area, Widodo told ANC in an interview that aired on Thursday.

Among ASEAN members, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia have overlapping sea claims with China. Previous summits have failed to produce a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea.

"South China Sea is one of the issues that we need to solve immediately. In the previous meetings, there were still differences between ASEAN member states. I think we need to have a common stand," Widodo said in Bahasa.

"What is most important is that ASEAN, internally, should have a mutual agreement on this issue, then and only then, can we communicate with China," he said.

A code of conduct would pave the way for joint activities in the South China Sea, including exploration and fishing, Widodo said.

"This is something more concrete, something real, this is important," he said.

Widodo also expressed an affinity with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who like him served in local government and did not come from the political elite.

Widodo was governor of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, before he was elected president. Duterte served as mayor of the southern Philippine city of Davao.

The Indonesian leader is scheduled to help inaugurate the Davao-Manado Connectivity Route during his visit to the Philippines.

"This will start an integration of maritime infrastructure in ASEAN. For example, a roro ship from Davao to Bitung in Manado, will make it easier for export and import process," he said.

"It will also make it easier for transportation and logistics. Hence, the relations between Indonesia and the Phillipines will improve."

Catch Karen Davila's full interview with President Widodo on Friday on Headstart.