South China Sea: Coc Is Best Solution To Dispute – Freeman

KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 (Bernama) — Adhering and committing to finalise the Code of Conduct (Coc) for claimants of the South China Sea territorial dispute remains the best solution to resolve the long-standing problem in the region, an expert said.

Executive Director of School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), John Hopkins University, Washington DC, Dr Carla Park Freeman said in fact formulation of the document needed to be expedited to prevent the tension from rupturing into a full blown conflict.

She said that claimant states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, China and Taiwan should set a time frame to complete the CoC.

Formulation of the CoC, which resulted from the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) signed in 2002 by 10 ASEAN member countries namely Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam as well as China have not seen much progress.

DoC, among others, aimed to promote a peaceful, friendly and harmonious environment in the South China Sea between ASEAN and China for the enhancement of peace, stability, economic growth and prosperity in the region.

It also spells out the 11 signatory countries’ desire to enhance favourable conditions for a peaceful and durable solution of differences and disputes among countries concerned.

Dr Freeman who specialises in China Studies said decision by the Philippines to pursue its claims against China at the Arbitrary Tribunal had further complicated the matter.

Speaking to Bernama in an interview during her working visit here, she added that China might even abort the CoC negotiation process as objection to the arbitration.

“Arbitration is certaintly one tool but as long as countries like China with a major claim is unwilling to accept international arbitration, it makes discussion more difficult.

“The worry that I have is that if you have this arbitration, China will basically stop the movement of talks and development of the CoC. China will not participate in that any longer,” she said.

She added that if the arbitration outcome favoured the Philippines, it would set a precedent for other claimant states to follow suit.

Dr Freeman said the claimant countries in ASEAN at the same time must work to resolve the dispute among them before heading to the negotiation table with China, as this would enable them to establish a more coherent and unified position vis-a-vis the superpower.

She noted that this was even more crucial as not all ASEAN countries are on the same page with claimant states in regards to the contentious issue.

“But if ASEAN have a strategy and be coherent in their position, the outcome will be better for everyone,” she said.

On the United States’ position, she said the US had maintained its stand in wanting to see the freedom of navigation and safe passage in the waters under the international laws was preserved.

BERNAMA.

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