ASEAN leaders urge
self-restraint to cool South China Sea tension
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov. 10 (PNA/Kyodo) -- Southeast Asian leaders are to call
for self-restraint to avoid escalation of tensions in the South China Sea,
according to a draft obtained Monday of a document expected to be released
at the end of a regional summit meeting later this month.
Leaders from the 10-member countries in the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations are expected to gather in Kuala Lumpur for their second summit on
Nov. 21, after the first in April.
The territorial disputes over some rocky outcrops that make up the Spratly
Islands in the South China Sea will once again top the agenda as in the
According to the draft "chairman's statement" that represents the consensus
of the grouping, the leaders "reaffirmed the importance of maintaining
peace, security and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded
lawful commerce, freedom of navigation and overflight over the South China
"We called on all parties to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of
activities and avoid actions that would complicate and escalate tension,"
read a copy of the draft, dated Oct. 26, seen by Kyodo News.
The leaders pushed for a peaceful resolution to the conflict based on the UN
Convention on the Law of the Sea and want all member states to abide by the
Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and to
establish a Code of Conduct (COC).
The COC is a legally binding document on the rules in settling disputes in
the South China Sea as opposed to the DOC, which is a set of nonbinding
The leaders are meeting as tension in the South China Sea rose a notch
higher last month after the United States sent a navy destroyer close to an
artificial island being built by China in the fiercely contested waters.
The Spratlys, believed to hold rich oil and mineral deposits, are claimed by
China, Taiwan and four ASEAN member nations -- Brunei, Malaysia, the
Philippines and Vietnam. The United States had said it would not take sides
in the territorial disputes but vowed to champion freedom of navigation in a
waterway where over USD 5 trillion of global trade transits annually.
The power play between the two ASEAN dialogue partners is expected to spill
over when leaders from both China and the United States come to Kuala Lumpur
for the East Asia Summit scheduled for Nov. 22.
The EAS comprises ASEAN -- which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos,
Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- plus
Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the
Last week at a meeting of defense ministers from the EAS countries also held
in Malaysia, squabbles over the disputed waters scuttled their plan for a
joint declaration and instead, a "chairman's statement" was issued.
Besides the South China Sea issue, the chairman's statement of the leaders'
summit also touches on a key ASEAN agenda -- the push toward a single
Malaysia plays host at a crucial juncture in ASEAN developments as this year
marks the deadline for the formal establishment of the ASEAN Community,
which entails closer integration through three pillars -- political
security, economic and socio-cultural aspects.
But as leaders toast to the symbolic establishment of ASEAN Community 2015,
they have already laid out a framework for the "ASEAN Community Vision 2025"
that the leaders will adopt in a document titled "Kuala Lumpur Declaration
on the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together."
"We resolved to consolidate our community, building upon and deepening the
integration process to realize a politically cohesive, economically
integrated, socially responsible and a truly rules-based, people-oriented
and people-centered ASEAN community," according to the draft chairman's
"In realizing ASEAN 2025, we underlined the urgency to strengthen ASEAN
institutional capacity and increase ASEAN institutional presence at the
national, regional and international levels," said the document.
Other issues the statement touches on include the recent wave of violence in
the Israeli-occupied West Bank that has killed dozens of Palestinians and a
handful of Israelis since attacks began early October.
The leaders expressed their concern and called for restraint besides
reaffirming their support for an independent Palestinian state and a
two-state solution where Palestine and Israel co-exist in peace. (PNA/Kyodo)