Beijing—For more than a decade, China and ASEAN have endeavored to address issues concerning the South China Sea through their own mechanisms, and progress has been made. Thus, the recent tribunal “award” should not — and will not — stand in the way of continued achievements.
In 2002, China and ASEAN member states signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which serves as the common basis for relevant parties to explore the peaceful resolution of disputes.
For years, China and members of ASEAN have maintained close and effective communication and reached many consensuses. They are pushing forward consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) under the framework of the DOC.
This suggests that China and ASEAN are more than capable of handling their differences in a mature manner, with the support of necessary channels and mechanisms.
On the day the award was announced, members of ASEAN including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia issued statements stressing the full and effective implementation of the DOC, early conclusion of the COC, respect for international law, and healthy dialogues, negotiations and consultation.
Cambodia, on the same day, reiterated its position of not supporting the arbitration award. Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said days later that Laos supports China’s stance over the South China Sea issue, and stands ready to work with China to maintain peace and stability in the region.
It is the shared aspiration of China and ASEAN to make the South China Sea a region of peace, stability and development, and they have the ability and means to achieve this goal. The commitment of China and ASEAN to the DOC and to resolving disputes through friendly consultations and negotiations by countries directly concerned should be respected. There is absolutely no need for any third party to intervene.
In 1991, China and ASEAN established dialogue relations. Fast forward 25 years, and the two have fostered a most robust and vibrant relationship, with across-the-board cooperation — bringing practical benefits to a combined population of around 2 billion. China is now ASEAN’s largest trading partner and ASEAN is China’s third-largest trading partner. Their trade volume surged from nearly 8 billion U.S. dollars in 1991 to 472 billion dollars last year.