MANILA, Philippines — As Southeast Asian countries and China move forward with the negotiations of the Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea, the concerned nations stressed that such progress will not be taken for granted.
In a draft statement seen by Philstar.com, the ASEAN member states and China maintained their commitment to maintain peace, stability, freedom of navigation and overflight over the disputed South China Sea.
“It is in our collective interest to avoid miscalculations that could lead to escalation of tensions,” the draft joint statement read.
The 10-member regional bloc and Beijing reiterated their commitment to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety.
The countries are set to adopt the Declaration on a Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection in the South China Sea during the ASEAN-China Summit in Manila on Monday.
This declaration would be reflective of the concerned parties’ commitment to the implementation of the DOC.
“We should continue to build confidence and trust through practical maritime cooperation,” the draft statement read.
During the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Manila last August, the Southeast Asian states and China adopted the framework of the COC, which they deemed “an important milestone.”
“Trust that we will continue this positive momentum and work towards a substantive and effective COC,” the Southeast Asian nations and Beijing said.
The ASEAN and China are also looking forward to an early conclusion of the COC.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping had downplayed the buildup in the South China Sea and told President Rodrigo Duterte that “it’s nothing.”
“He knows that if he goes to war, everything will blow up. He acknowledged that war cannot be promoted by anybody, but it would only mean destruction for all of us,” Duterte told reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Sunday.