“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press... (Sec. 4, 1987 Philippine Constitution)”
PHNOM PENH/12 July 2012 by Frencie Carreon— It’s a volatile and uptight power play here in Pnomh Penh, as ASEAN member-state representatives deliberate on the matters evolving around South China Sea (SCS), particularly the Code of Conduct.
“We want a peaceful resolution. We will not take sides. We want a peaceful resolution the claims resolved on the territorial claims in accordance with the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, and it would be helpful if ASEAN settles for a binding Code of Conduct for the parties to this dispute,” Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said to reporters here.
“Beyond that, I’d like to see confidence-building issues to minimize the chances of the next member clash between nations of the region,” Carr said.
The dispute has heightened the tension here, as the 45th ASEAN Ministers Meetings concluded last yesterday evening, and the 45th ASEAN Regional Forum began this morning. The claim issue on some parts of SCS involves China, Vietnam, the Philippines on the more aggressive side, with the United States, being an ally of the Philippines, tagged.
In a briefing with the international media and the state-owned Cambodian press, ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan admitted, “Earlier there was a reluctance from some parties to engage informally, periodically. Now they have decided to move on, move along, trying to negotiate and identify the issues and the elements to with the CoC.”
However, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lin Weimin told media here that the South China Sea matter is “not an issue between China and ASEAN,” rather, “between China and ASEAN countries.”
Meanwhile, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who refrained from issuing statements to the press in an apparent compliance to a directive from Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to be mum on the matter to avoid reactions from Beijing, said at the ASEAN-US Ministers Meeting yesterday that “the adherence of all countries in the region to a set of fair and transparent rules, as embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, will generate greater mutual trust and respect in the region.”
China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi stressed that “the Chinese government has put China’s relations with its neighbors, including ASEAN, high on China’s diplomatic agenda and will continue to promote good-neighborly relationship with ASEAN. China will adjust the priority areas of cooperation with ASEAN in response to the needs of ASEAN’s community-building efforts and ensure that China-ASEAN cooperation will complement ASEAN community-building efforts.”
Host country Cambodia is seen as a close ally of China, while claimant Philippines is a close ally of the US. “We have to look at the South China Sea issue carefully. We have to be very, very careful,” Dr. Surin said. (Frencie Carreon, TPSA)
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