MANILA - Some partner countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have expressed concern over the application of China's Coast Guard Law and stressed the importance of coming up with a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, the Philippines' defense ministry said Wednesday.
Defense chiefs of ASEAN and the bloc's dialogue partners met virtually on Tuesday and Wednesday as they commemorate the 15th founding anniversary of the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting (ADMM), said the Department of National Defense (DND).
"On the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea (SCS/WPS), some Plus countries expressed concern on the ambiguous application of the Chinese Coast Guard Law (CGL), while stressing the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight and the early conclusion of a substantive Code of Conduct (COC)," said the DND.
The law passed in Beijing earlier this year explicitly lets its coast guard fire on foreign vessels in waters "under China's jurisdiction." It was a move seen to intensify tensions in contested waters around China.
China is being criticized for its continuous incursions in Philippine waters even as a 2016 landmark arbitration ruling had invalidated its sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea.
It is among ASEAN's 8 dialogue partners that also include the following: Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The proposed COC, which ASEAN and China hope to complete negotiating on next year, is aimed at managing tensions in the South China Sea.
Aside from China and the Philippines, ASEAN member-states Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan, have competing claims in the sea.
The DND said the ADMM-Plus also tackled common regional security challenges such as terrorism, violent extremism, border control, cyber security, maritime security, and climate change.
The military coup in Myanmar, the situation in the Korean peninsula, the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, and major power competition were discussed as well, among regional and International issues.
The ministers adopted a declaration to strengthen cooperation among their countries and build on practical cooperation to address security challenges for the collective benefit of the region, called "Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration of the ADMM-Plus Defence Ministers on Promoting A Future-Ready, Peaceful and Prosperous ASEAN", the DND said.
DND, Department of National Defense, ASEAN, ADMM, ADMM-Plus, ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting