11December2017

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Codes of conduct on South China Sea

COMMENTARY, 10.03.2017

The discussion of Codes of Conduct on the South China Sea is entering a new phase. As reported by Reuters News Agency, China's Foreign Ministry claimed to have completed the initial draft of the Codes of Conduct for the South China Sea. The codes of conduct on the South China Sea are actually not a new thing because they were initiated in 2010.

Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi said that the completion of this first draft may further ease the tensions in the disputed region.

Since 2010, China and ASEAN member countries have started to think about a set of rules and codes of conduct aiming to avoid open conflict, which both of them claim the South China Sea. Indonesia as an initiator of the codes of conducts submitted initial proposals in 2012.

In late September, 2012, the then Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister, Marty Natalegawa provided a draft to the 10th ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of 67th session of UN General Assembly in New York, USA. Indonesia's proposal was related to the codes of conduct on the prevention and resolution of conflicts in the South China Sea. The Indonesia’s step is a concrete manifestation of the previous discussion at ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting that took place in Cambodia in July 2012.

The initiative of Beijing to follow-up the proposed items of the Codes of Conduct is positive. As we know that the conflict in the South China Sea involves China nad other ASEAN member countries such as the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam and Vietnam. China itself claims virtually the entire area of economically potential as its territory. Last year, tensions occurred between the Philippines and China as a result of territorial claims on the islands of Spratly. The result of international arbitration court in The Hague won by the Philippines is not recognized by the government in Beijing. The tensions continue, because in addition to China, Taiwan is also involved.

The conflicting parties have not known exactly the draft contents of the codes of conduct set Beijing and these will be offered by Beijing. Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi said that there is some progress on the discussion of the Codes of Conduct. Even, Beijing claims that China and ASEAN have created a stable situation. Beijing views that the stability should not be interrupted by other parties, especially the United States of America.

In the perspective of foreign involvement of outside parties of ASEAN on the issue of the South China Sea, the conflict seems to continue although there is a new phase on the discussion of the Codes of Conduct to address the crisis in the South China Sea region.

Indonesia as a country that proposed the basic elements of the Codes of Conduct should be able to further play major role.

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