[Indonesia Report] ASEAN Hopes to settle dispute on South China Sea

Amid tension in South China Sea, ASEAN countries are expected to release a statement of unity of their stands on South China Sea dispute this week.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, left, talks with Cambodian Foreign Minister, Hor Namhong in Phnom Penh Thursday. (Photo : Reuters)

ASEAN Ministerial Meeting’s unprecedented failure to issue communiqué last week, raised concern over ASEAN’s unity. They failed to reach a consensus after Cambodia objection over a wording, the mentioning of Chinese standoffs with Philippine in the contested water.

Indonesian Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, started a tour to Manila, Hanoi and Phnom Penh on Wednesday as a mediator to convince the countries to come with ASEAN’s one voice over the dispute.

On a press conference on Thursday, after his meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said, “We, ASEAN foreign ministers, agreed in principle on a number of issues over the South China Sea issue,” according to Reuters.

He also continued by saying that tomorrow (July 20), they will be expecting the approval confirmation from all the ASEAN country members.

After ASEAN countries agreed on their stands on the South China Sea dispute, then the Code of Conduct ASEAN signed with China in 2002 needs to be implemented.

“The next task (is) to pursue in an aggressive way … the code of conduct on the South China sea,” Marty Natalegawa, Indonesia Foreign Minister, said adding there was a need “to see the code of conduct adopted now, not in three years.”

South China Sea dispute is a territory and sovereignty of sea and dispute between China, Vietnam, Philippine, Malaysia and Brunei.

Map of South China Sea (Photo : BBC)

China claims that Paracel and Spratly islands are also part of Chinese territory, where Taiwan also claims it as part of its territory.

Vietnam claims to have since long ruled Paracel and Spratly islands.

Philippine also claims Spratly Island as its territory because of geographical proximity. Both Philippine and China claim its territory over Scarborough shoal.

And for Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, they claim some part of the South China Sea as their Exclusive Economic Zone as defined in United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea in 1982, which is 200 nautical miles from their shorelines.

According to US Energy Information Administration, South China Sea is rich with natural resources such as oil and natural gas. EIA estimated that the oil consumption of Asian countries would be increased 2.7 percent annually. And China is expected to account for almost half the growth.

CNN reported, over the past three years, there have been 23 incidents of confrontation occurred in South China Sea. The most recent was in April when Philippine’s naval vessel became standoff with two Chinese maritime surveillance ships after Philippine confronted Chinese fishing vessels in the disputed area.

Meidyana Rayana Intern Reporter news@theasian.asia

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