ASEAN foreign ministers raise "concerns" over China's reclamation, importance of "non-militarisation" in South China Sea
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers have raised "concerns" on the land reclamation and activities of China in the disputed South China Sea.
This was contained in the Joint Communique of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting, which the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs released to the media on Sunday night.
"We discussed extensively the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region," the Joint Communique read.
The foreign ministers also stressed the importance of "non-militarisation and self-restraint" in the conduct of activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.
China has reclaimed seven shoals and reefs in the disputed waters and reportedly has installed military equipment in the artificial islands.
Beijing, which has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, has continued with its activities despite the July 2016 ruling of an arbitral tribunal declaring China's sovereign claim in the whole areas as illegal and violates the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Aside from the Philippines and China, other claimants in the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnman, also ASEAN countries, and Taiwan.
The ASEAN foreign ministers also reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea and the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
They also underscored the importance of the "full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety."
They also welcomed the conclusion and adoption of the framework of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which "will facilitate the work for the conclusion of an effective COC on a mutually-agreed timeline."
The foreign ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to combat radicalization and violent extremism through "whole-of-nation approach as opposed to a purely military option."
They also reiterated their grave concerns over the escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula and called for the resumption of dialogue in order to de-escalate tensions and create conditions conducive to peace and stability. Celerina Monte/DMS