The 44th ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Bali, Indonesia has apparently become a forum for the recent South China Sea disputes. On July 19, several ASEAN nations called for a more binding Code of Conduct (COC), based on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, adopted by China and the 10-member ASEAN in 2002. They hope to resolve territorial disputes in South China Sea with the help of the United States and Japan.
Despite diplomatic pressure, China has reiterated many times that the South China Sea disputes should be resolved through direct negotiations between parties involved in accordance with historical facts and recognized international laws.
China indeed often runs into maritime disputes with some ASEAN nations. But China's stance on the South China Sea issue is clear and consistent. Since the 1980s, the Chinese government has always adopted a highly responsible attitude to exercise maximum restraint and put forward the proposal of "shelving differences while seeking joint development."
Meanwhile, the United States has consistently sought to step up its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Prior to the Bali meeting, the United States launched a week long joint naval drill with Vietnam, which caused great complaints from Beijing. Also, in July of last year at the ASEAN Regional Forum Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Hanoi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked at length about U.S. "national interests" in the South China Sea.
Military intervention to resolve disputes is no longer the theme of the times. China believes it is highly possible to resolve the South China Sea disputes and other issues through peaceful means, such as bilateral talks, without the involvement of nations outside the region.
To ensure smooth economic cooperation between China and ASEAN countries as well as long-term peace and stability in the region, the top priority is to cool the South China Sea issue and avoid the complication of the relevant disputes. History has proven that any move to play up disputes, sharpen contradictions, or intentionally internationalize disputes will only make the situation worse.
(This article was written in Chinese and translated by Ma Yujia)
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