Thu, 01 Jun 2023

Phnom Penh [Cambodia], August 5 (ANI): The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has raised concern over China's land reclamations activities in the South China Sea.

"We discussed the situation in the South China Sea, during which concerns were expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations, activities, serious incidents in the area, including damage to the marine environment, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions, and may undermine peace, security, and stability in the region," ASEAN joint statement said.

The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) was held on August 3 2022 in Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia. The Meeting was chaired by Cambodia under the theme 'ASEAN ACT: Addressing Challenges Together.

"We reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation," said the statement issued on Friday.

The group reaffirmed the need to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

China has been unilaterally changing things on the ground in the South China Sea. In the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic, it was busy increasing its presence in the SCS. It approved the establishment of two districts to administer disputed Paracel and the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Before that, Beijing had issued new names for 25 islands or reefs and 55 undersea entities in the South China Sea in a bid to reaffirm its sovereignty in the region.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982, is an international agreement that establishes the legal framework for marine and maritime activities.

It is also known as Law of the Sea. It divides marine areas into five main zones namely- Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the High Seas.

"We stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties, and we reaffirmed the importance of upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, the statement said.

UNCLOS is the only international convention which stipulates a framework for state jurisdiction in maritime spaces and provides a different legal status to different maritime zones.

"We emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea," ASEAN statement said.

ASEAN reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea and recognised the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity.

It underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety.

"We welcomed ongoing efforts to strengthen cooperation between ASEAN and China, and were encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, within a mutually-agreed timeline."ASEAN welcomed the resumption of physical textual negotiation of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text through the convening of the 36th JWG-DOC on 25-27 May 2022 in Siem Reap, and looked forward to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC that is in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

"We emphasised the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the COC negotiations, and thus welcomed practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risk of accidents, misunderstandings, and miscalculation," the statement said. (ANI)

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