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ASEAN foreign ministers deeply concerned over East Sea tensions

Update: August, 11/2014 - 08:22
Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh (sixth from left) attended the 21st ASEAN Regional Forum yesterday on the sidelines of the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Myanmar, where concerns were expressed over tensions in the East Sea. — XINHHUA/VNA Photo
NAY PYI TAW (VNS) — The 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM-47) has issued a joint communique expressing the ministers' deep concern over recent developments that have escalated tensions in the East Sea, also known as South China Sea.

"We remained seriously concerned over recent developments which had increased tensions in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, maritime security as well as freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea," they said on Saturday.

They also reaffirmed their commitments to the principles stipulated in the 2012 Statement of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers on ASEAN's Six Point Principles on the East Sea, the 2012 Joint Statement of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit on the 10th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, and the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Statement on the Current Developments in the East Sea which was issued on May 10, 2014.

"We urged all parties concerned to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions which would complicate the situation and undermine peace, stability, and security in the South China Sea and to settle disputes through peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, including friendly dialogue, consultations and negotiations, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," said the communiqu.

The ministers further stressed the importance of the collective commitments of ASEAN Member States and China to peace, stability, maritime security and mutual trust in the region and the need to create conditions conducive for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

They agreed to intensify consultations with China on measures and mechanisms to ensure and further enhance the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety, particularly Articles 4 and 5 as well as substantive negotiations for the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC). They said they tasked their senior officials to follow up on this matter.

The communiqu also took note of the Progress Report on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea to be submitted to the ASEAN-China Post-Ministerial Conference. The statement also tasked officials to work with China to finalise the objective and structure and elaborate the substance of the COC, including concrete elements which would promote trust and confidence, prevent incidents and manage incidents should they occur.

The ministers also underscored the importance of maintaining the momentum of consultations and working towards the early conclusion of the COC following the constructive outcomes of the 7th ASEAN-China Senior Officials Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC (SOM on DOC) held on April 21 in Pattaya, Thailand and the 10th and 11th ASEAN-China Joint Working Groups on the Implementation of the DOC (JWG on DOC) held on March 18 in Singapore and June 25, 2014 in Bali, Indonesia, respectively.

"In this regard, we looked forward to more substantive discussions at the 8th SOM on DOC to be convened back-to-back with the 12th JWG on DOC in October 2014 in Bangkok," they said.

They also noted the paper on the Triple Action Plan introduced by the Philippines and other proposals on Article 5 of the DOC raised by other ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the East Sea.

The joint communique also mentioned other issues discussed by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers during the AMM-47, including realising an ASEAN Community with three main pillars, ASEAN Community's post-2015 vision, promoting ASEAN's principles, norms and values and ASEAN's centrality and its relations with partners, among others.

ASEAN collaboration

ASEAN and its dialogue partners have agreed to bolster their collaboration through the effective implementation of existing joint action plans between the bloc and each partner, focusing on economics, trade, investment, culture, tourism and programmes to narrow development gaps and adapt to climate change.

At ASEAN+1 Ministerial Meetings in Myanmar last Saturday the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN and its dialogue partners, namely China, the Republic of Korea (RoK), India, Russia, the US, the EU, Japan and Canada, reviewed their dialogue partnership and cooperation from the past year, proposed cooperation orientations, and discussed issues of mutual concern as well as the preparation for summits between ASEAN and some dialogue partners at the end of the year.

The partners pledged to continue their support for the bloc's central role, as well as work together to enhance regional connectivity and linkages, effectively implement existing free trade agreements, and push ahead with negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

During discussions on regional and international issues, the East Sea issue drew special attention, with participating countries expressing deep concern about the recent tensions in the sea which seriously affected peace, security and stability in the region. They called for efforts to prevent the reoccurrence of similar incidents.

The ASEAN+1 meetings also highlighted the importance for parties involved to abide by international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, settle disputes by peaceful means, restrain themselves, and not to use or threaten to use force.

ASEAN and China needed to exert more efforts to ensure the full implementation of commitments mentioned in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), first and foremost Article 5 of the DOC on self restrain and refraining from making moves causing instability and further complicating the situation, while stepping up result-oriented talks for an early formation of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) to better ensure peace and stability in the region, they said.

A general view of the 4th East Asia Summit (EAS) foreign ministers' meeting at the Myanmar International Convention Center (MICC) in Naypyidaw on August 10, 2014. Myanmar hosts the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting (AMM) and 21st ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) from August 8 to 10. — AFP/VNA/VNS PHOTO

At the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting, both sides committed to further strengthening their strategic partnership, and coordinating to ensure a peaceful, stable and cooperative environment in the region.

They agreed to continue their effective deployment of their 2011-2015 action plan, while further coordinating the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC). The ministers also backed the discussion on upgrading the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, striving for two-way trade of US$500 billion by 2015 and $1 trillion by 2020.

Meanwhile, ASEAN and RoK ministers lauded activities in 2014 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their dialogue partnership, affirming to do their utmost to make the ASEAN-RoK Commemorative Summit in Busan, the RoK, in December a success.

The two sides also vowed to increase bilateral trade to $150 billion in 2015.

At the ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting, ASEAN countries highly valued India's assistance for the building of the ASEAN Community, and for the promotion of ASEAN's central role in the regional structure.

They reached a consensus on the enhancement of connectivity through the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, the Mekong-India Economic Corridor and the ASEAN-India Air Transport Agreement.

At the ASEAN-Russia Ministerial Meeting, the ministers expressed their satisfaction with bilateral cooperation, especially a 30-percent surge in bilateral trade last year.

They stressed the need to build a new plan prioritising the consolidation of the ASEAN Community after 2015, intensifying connectivity, boosting bilateral trade and investment, and dealing with challenges that arise.

At the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, participants agreed to work together to lift bilateral ties towards a strategic partnership level.

ASEAN thanked the EU for doubling funding for the ASEAN community building process to EUR170 million during 2014-2020, and its commitment of more than EUR1.7 billion for Mekong nations to narrow development gaps. The two sides saw eye to eye on fostering connections in maritime security, education and disaster control.

On the same day, foreign ministers of ASEAN and the US reached a consensus on continuing to promote comprehensive cooperation in all fields while keeping up efforts to ensure nuclear security and safety and strengthen coordination in climate change adaptation, clean energy and food security. They agreed to consider the building of an ASEAN-US common vision on disarmament and nuclear weapon non-proliferation.

At the ASEAN-Japan Ministerial Meeting, the bloc applauded Japan's establishment of the ASEAN Integration Fund, and the country's support for ASEAN connectivity, referencing 70 key projects to implement the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.

ASEAN encouraged Japan to continue its assistance in sustainable development for developing countries in the Mekong sub-region, with the focus on infrastructure, water resource management and climate change responses.

At the ASEAN-Canada Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the two sides agreed to add new areas such as maritime transport, education, clean energy, small-and medium-sized businesses to the 2015-2020 working plan.

ASEAN appreciated Canada's commitment to supporting the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) and public-private partnership (PPP) projects while encouraging Canada to consider boosting cooperation on agriculture, infrastructure and narrowing the development gap.

At the ASEAN+3 Foreign Ministers' Meeting with China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, the ministers appreciated the outcomes of the 2013-2017 ASEAN+3 Action Plan in the fields of trade, investment, finance, science and health.

They highlighted the importance of ASEAN+3 cooperation in maintaining peace, security and stability in the region as well as in coping with emerging challenges. They also stressed mutual supplementation between ASEAN+3 and other frameworks such as ASEAN+1, East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM+) in promoting linkages in East Asia.

The ministers applauded the ASEAN+3 Emergency Rice Reserve's initiative to provide timely assistance for the Philippines to overcome the consequences of typhoon Haiyan last year.

Deputy PM Binh Minh co-chaired the ASEAN-EU meeting. Minh affirmed that Viet Nam would continue its efforts to elevate ASEAN-EU relations to a strategic partnership while calling for the EU to actively contribute to fostering peace, stability and trust building as well as support ASEAN's central role in the region.

Addressing other meetings, Minh asked the partners to actively participate in and contribute to building peace, security, stability and development in the region as well as backing the central role of ASEAN as a regional framework for decision-making via ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, EAS, ARF and ADMM+.

Bottom from L-R: Singapore Foreign Minister K Shanmugam, Thai foreign affairs ministry permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Vietnam Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Philippines Foreign Minister Albert Del Rosario, Australia's Foreign Minister Julia Bishop, Brunei Foreign Minister Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Cambodia Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and top from L-R: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, Philippines Foreign Minister Albert Del Rosario, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, Laos Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Indonesia Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, India External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Le Luong Minh pose for a group photo prior to attending the 4th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign ministers' meeting at the Myanmar International Convention Center (MICC) in Naypyidaw on August 10, 2014. Myanmar host the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting (AMM) and 21st ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) from August 8 to 10. — AFP/VNA/VNS PHOTO

Regarding the regional situation, the Vietnamese official shared ASEAN's view on the need to step up joint efforts to ensure an environment of peace, stability and cooperation in the region, with security, safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea.

He expressed Viet Nam's deep concern about recent developments that resulted in tensions in the East Sea, especially China's illegal placement of its oil rig in Viet Nam's waters, and stressed that such violations should not be allowed to happen again in future.

He underlined ASEAN's principles as stipulated in the 2012 Statement of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers on ASEAN's Six Point Principles on the East Sea and the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Statement on the Current Developments in the East Sea which was issued on May 10 this year, calling for compliance with international law, UNCLOS and DOC as well as the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, self restraint, without the use or threat of force.

The parties should further enhance the full and effective implementation of DOC, particularly Article 5 on not allowing activities that complicate the situation, while accelerating substantive negotiations for the early conclusion of the COC, he noted.

Water resources

Viet Nam prioritised the sustainable development and effective use of the Mekong River's water resources, particularly in the face of climate change, said Deputy PM Minh at the 7th Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) Ministerial Meeting and the fourth Friends of the Lower Mekong (FLM) Ministerial Meeting, in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar last Saturday.

Speaking at the meetings occurring on the sidelines the AMM-47, Minh said that Viet Nam wanted to further coordinate with neighbouring Mekong states and development partners in these efforts.

He also proposed strengthening co-operation and dialogue within the LMI and FLM frameworks to achieve socio-economic development, strengthen connections with regional neighbours, narrow the development gap between ASEAN members and enhance the Mekong River Commission's capacity for research and forecasting the impacts of hydroelectric dams in the Mekong River's main stream.

The 7th LMI foreign ministers' meeting discussed the opportunities and challenges for the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin and proposed concrete co-operation measures to narrow the development gap and speed up regional economic integration towards an ASEAN community by 2015.

The meeting adopted a joint statement which said that in the next five years, the LMI co-operation would focus on implementing six major projects on connectivity, smart infrastructure, education and training, communication skills training for leaders, start-up centres for women, and infectious disease prevention.

At the event, many development partners such as the European Union, Australia, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank pledged to continue supporting Mekong nations in managing water resources sustainably and building infrastructure, clean energy industries and agriculture sectors adapted to climate change.

The EU also announced tripling its aid for the regional nations for the 2014-2020 period.

VN-China meeting

Minister Pham Binh Minh (L) meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last Friday on the sidelines of the AMM-47 in Myanmar's capital, Nay Pyi Taw.— XINHUA/VNA/VNS Photo

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Minh met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last Friday on the sidelines of the AMM-47 in Myanmar's capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

Minh said at the meeting that Viet Nam valued the neighbourliness and comprehensive strategic partnership with China. However, he noted, the relations had recently been affected by the tension at sea due to China's illegal placement of its oil rig in Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf which violated Viet Nam's sovereignty, sovereign right and jurisdiction.

Minh reiterated Viet Nam's stance and principle on sea-related issues, saying the two sides needed to join hands in order to maintain peace and stability at sea and manage disputes in an appropriate manner, and should not take any actions to complicate the situation.

He said the most important issue now was to prevent similar incidents and settle disputes through peaceful measures.

The recent East Sea tension clearly proved the need for strict implementation of the DOC and the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), he said, urging China to speed up negotiations for the COC.

Viet Nam would do its utmost to strengthen the mutual understanding and co-operation between ASEAN and China for the sake of peace, stability and prosperity in the region, he said.

Minh once again expressed sympathy to China over the recent deadly earthquake in Yunnan Province.

For his part, Wang thanked the Vietnamese Government for sending its condolences to the earthquake victims, showing the friendship between the two countries.

He said the two should foster co-operation and deal with difficulties affecting bilateral ties, including the East Sea issue.

Foreign talks

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (L) meets with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Mauung Lwin. — VNA Photo

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh held bilateral meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Myanmar, the US and India on the sidelines of the on-going AMM-47 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.

Minh and Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Mauung Lwin agreed to increase the exchange of visits, including a trip to Viet Nam by the speaker of the Myanmar parliament.

The pair also reached a consensus on the early organisation of the 7th political consultation meeting at deputy foreign ministerial level and the 8th session of the Viet Nam-Myanmar Joint Committee. The establishment of a deputy ministerial-level dialogue mechanism on defence policy and a joint working group of the two defence ministries was also tabled for discussion.

Minh proposed that the two sides beef up their economic, trade and investment links. He also called on the Myanmar government to further enable Vietnamese business and investment activities in Myanmar.

He praised Myanmar for its efforts as ASEAN Chair to promote ASEAN solidarity and the role and common voice of ASEAN member nations in vital security issues in the region, affirming that Vietnam was willing to work closely with Myanmar in the future.

Meanwhile, at the meeting between Minh and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the two sides expressed satisfaction at the progress in bilateral ties since the two countries established a comprehensive partnership in 2013. The two officials agreed that there was great potential for Viet Nam and the US to step up bilateral ties in future.

Minh and Kerry also discussed co-operation in several fields, including the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, climate change and civil nuclear energy, while comparing notes on regional and global issues of common concern.

During Minh's meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, the two sides outlined new directions for bilateral cooperation on economics and trade, with a view of raising trade between the two countries to US$7 billion by 2015 and $15 billion by 2020.

The Indian FM stressed that Viet Nam was important to her country's Look East Policy.

Speaking at the 21st ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) yesterday, Deputy PM Minh stressed the contribution made by the East Asia Summit (EAS) and ARF to regional peace, security, stability and co-operation, and said that partners should increase their support for the building of the ASEAN community and regional co-operation, while bridging the development gap and promoting its key role in the region, particularly in issues relating to peace and security.

He also suggested measures to strengthen the role of the EAS and ARF to help them make more effective contributions to peace, security and co-operation in the region. — VNS

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