ASEAN chairman's statement cites “improving cooperation” between region, China
In contrast to the strongly worded Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers' joint communique, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano's statement did not mention "land reclamation and militarization" of China in the disputed South China Sea.
Cayetano, as chairman of the just concluded 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and Related Meetings, said the Southeast Asian ministers welcomed the improving maritime cooperation between ASEAN and its partner nations.
"They also warmly welcomed the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China and are encouraged by the completion of negotiations on a framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC), which will facilitate the work for the conclusion of an effective COC," he said.
"The ministers recognized the benefits that would be gained from having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and sustainable development," he added.
In the joint communique issued on Sunday night, the ASEAN foreign ministers raised concerns on China's reclamation in the disputed waters.
They also sought for the "non-militarization" in the South China Sea.
Cayetano, in a press conference earlier in the day, admitted in the original draft of the joint communique, he did not include the land reclamation and non-militarization. However, there was a consensus to include those words among the foreign ministers.
"The ministers also took note of concerns expressed by some member states, and in this light, reaffirmed the importance of enhancing mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoiding actions that may complicate the situation, and pursuing the peaceful resolution of disputes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law including the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," Cayetano said.
The ministers also underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety, he added.
On the Korean Peninsula, Cayetano reiterated the ministers' call for North Korea to "immediately comply fully with its obligations under all relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), including resolution 2371 adopted on 5 August, and urged all EAS participating countries to uphold their own obligations under relevant UNSCRs fully implement these resolutions." Celerina Monte/DMS