May 22, 2018, 4:41 am
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Asean ‘Sydney Declaration’: A strong position on South China Sea

THE Joint Statement of the Asean-Australia Special Summit signed by member heads of state aired the strongest position against aggressive acts in the South China Sea.

“We reaffirm the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and overflight in the region. We emphasize the importance of non-militarization and the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may complicate the situation. We reaffirm the need for states to pursue the peaceful resolutions of disputes, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and to comply with the relevant standards and recommended practices by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In this regard, we support the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety and look forward to an early conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).”

The declaration came at the end of the two-day special summit between Australia and the 10-member regional bloc, in which the Philippines was represented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. President Duterte was the only head of state who missed the event.

“The declaration has raised the level of regional cooperation amidst a changing geopolitical environment where the Philippines is a major stakeholder,” said DindoManhit, president of independent think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.

Short of an explicit reference to the Chinese militarization of the West Philippine Sea, the signatories stressed the “importance of non-militarization and the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may complicate the situation.”

In the same event, Vietnam and Australia released a joint statement that established “strategic partnership” between the two countries.

 “The Joint Statement on the Establishment of a Strategic Partnership between Australia and Viet Nam shows how two nations with different political systems are able to build respect and shared interests that has become a model for bi-lateral cooperation that is aligned with the strong pronouncements of the Asean-Australia Special Summit.” said Manhit

The partnership covers a wide range of areas, including political cooperation, economic development, defense and security, education, and culture, among others.

“Asean’s unequivocal support for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and non-militarization springs a new momentum for the government and a strong message against actions that run counter to building regional trust and confidence,” Manhit added.
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