Myanmar - Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said on Friday that it was important for members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China “to quickly conclude” the talks on a code of conduct on the South China Sea.
“The recent incident in the South China Sea reminded us of the importance of concluding the code of conduct on that body of water,” said Marty on Friday, ahead of this weekend’s Asean Summit in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw.
China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the resource-rich sea, home to vital shipping lanes, but Asean members including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims.
The South China Sea, which potentially has abundant reserves of crude oil and natural gas, is widely considered as a flashpoint for a potential military conflict with China, which recently has been exerting its influence in the region.
Tensions are high after a collision between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels in the disputed area last week.
Vietnam has accused China of conducting drilling operations outside its territory, while the Chinese government believes otherwise and accuses Vietnam of intentionally provoking the incident, according to a report from Reuters.
“The risk of an incident is very real. I hope the current meetings in Myanmar will reinforce further recognition of that fact,” said the minister.
Marty added that what’s happening on the ground was “not helping” and “could derail the talks”.
The minister added that the talks between Asean and the Chinese had yielded positive results.
Indonesia has been pushing for the code of conduct, which will act to restrain the issue turning into a full-blown military conflict.
Building trust, avoiding conflicts and maintaining a conducive situation in the South China Sea was the goal of the code, according to Marty.
Rahmat Pramono, Indonesia’s ambassador to Asean, said the government hopes the summit in Myanmar will produce a joint statement that will highlight the importance of the issue to the 10-member Asean.
“We are working toward a common goal and understanding, but how will it sound and how it will be worded is another issue,” said Rahmat, adding that not all members had agreed to an understanding
The issue of the South China Sea almost divided Asean after leaders failed for the first time to produce a joint communique in the wake of the 2012 summit in Cambodia.
Marty then embarked on shuttle diplomacy to save Asean from its first failure, even if it was only a simple, well-written diplomatic statement.
While China believes that the issue of the disputed sea should be solved in a bilateral manner, Asean is pushing for a multilateral approach.
Indonesia, as the largest member in the group of Southeast Asian nations and a non-claimant state in the quarrel, is seen as an ideal, neutral broker.Agh (Sumber : The Jakarta Globe)