ASEAN foreign ministers underline non-militarization of East Vietnam Sea in join communiqué

 The joint statement was released a few hours after ASEAN and China passed a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the East Vietnam Sea 

Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh (L, 2nd) at the ASEAN- Australia ministerial meeting in Manila, the Philippines on August 6, 2017. Photo: Reuters

Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states have stressed the importance of non-militarization regarding the East Vietnam Sea situation in their joint communiqué.

The 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM 50) in Manila, the Philippines ended on Sunday evening with the announcement of a joint statement, in which the delegates expressed their shared opinion on the situation in the East Vietnam Sea.

“We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and over - flight above the maritime area,” the ministers said in the joint communiqué.

The officials emphasized the need to avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and to settle disputes peacefully in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

They highlighted the significance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states.

“We discussed extensively the matters relating to the [East Vietnam Sea] and took note of the concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” the delegates added.

The joint statement was released on Monday, just a few hours after the foreign ministers and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the East Vietnam Sea.

The document is expected to be submitted to the leaders of ASEAN and China during the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila this November.

All parties say the framework is only an outline for how the code will be established but critics say the failure to outline as an initial objective the need to make the code legally binding and enforceable, or have a dispute resolution mechanism, raises doubts about how effective the pact will be, according to Reuters.

Within the framework of the AMM 50, several conferences were organized between the foreign ministers from ASEAN and 10 of the bloc’s partner nations.

During these gathering, Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh called on the partner countries to further support ASEAN and contribute to the preservation of regional peace and stability.

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