MANILA, Philippines—Some partner states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have expressed apprehension over the Coast Guard law which China planned to use to enforce its will in the South China Sea.
The states called for the early conclusion of talks for a code of conduct in the area, according to the Department of National Defense (DND).
Defense ministers of Asean and its dialogue partners met online at the Asean Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus on Tuesday (June 15) and Wednesday (June 16).
The DND, in a statement, said “some Plus countries expressed concern on the ambiguous application of the Chinese Coast Guard Law while stressing the importance of navigation and overflight and the early conclusion of a substantive code of conduct.”
The code is seen as a way to prevent the conflict in South China Sea from escalating into full-blown war by setting ground rules of behavior for Asean member states and China, which is aggressively enforcing a claim to almost the entire area and stealing maritime territory from weaker states, like the Philippines.
Asean includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Its eight dialogue partners are Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
China’s Coast Guard Law allows the use of violent force on foreign ships in waters it claims to own and had drawn outrage from several countries, including the Philippines.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea despite a 2016 arbitration ruling that declared the claim as invalid, baseless and a pigment of imagination. Apart from China and the Philippines, Asean member-states Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim parts of the disputed waters.
Other regional security challenges like terrorism, violent extremism, border control, cyber security, maritime security and climate change were also discussed during the ADMM-Plus, said the DND.
The Asean defense ministers also met Chinese defense minister Wei Fenghe during the ASEAN-China Defense Ministers’ Informal Meeting on Tuesday.
The Philippines is the country coordinator for Asean-China Dialogue Partnership from 2018 to 2021.
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