Difficult negotiations for South China Sea code of conduct going forward: Vivian Balakrishnan

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (C) walks together with other ASEAN foreign ministers for the opening ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila on Aug 5, 2017. (Photo: Bullit Marquez/Pool/AFP)

MANILA: While ASEAN and China adopting a code of conduct framework on the South China Sea is “good news”, Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan says he does not want to “trivialise how difficult negotiations will be going forward.”

ASEAN and China adopted the framework on Sunday (Aug 6), with leaders expected to announce the formal start of negotiations on the code of conduct at the ASEAN Summit in November.

“Overall, the tone was positive, the situation is calmer, although some claimant states still continue to have concerns, which were expressed and echoed in the joint communique,” Dr Balakrishnan told Singapore reporters after a day of meetings.

He added the point is that progress has been made and the key index of this is the adoption of the framework.

“This is an important document because it represents, in a sense, consensus and more important than that, a commitment on behalf of all the 10 ASEAN states and China to make progress on this long overdue issue.”

When asked about criticism that the framework does not state the code will be legally binding, Dr Balakrishnan said “it’s premature to arrive at those conclusions”.

“Getting the framework (adopted) I would say is step 0.5, there is a lot. I think I don’t want to trivialise how difficult the negotiations will be going forward.”

However, he acknowledged that the question of a legally binding code of conduct will be a key issue.

“The (declaration of conduct) was not legally binding.  Surely when we move into the code of conduct, it has got to have some additional or significant legal effect,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

“The exact form of words, the exact way lawyers, international lawyers will craft it, I think all these will be the subject of intense negotiations going forward.”

While not wanting to prejudge the issue, Dr Balakrishnan said that countries must bear in mind the “ultimate goal is peace, stability and confidence building in the South China Sea.”

He noted that this is also because so much of ASEAN’s trade flows through the South China Sea.

“Ultimately it achieves a level of interdependence. We are so intertwined that we will never allow differences to inflate into disputes or even incidents on the ground,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

Source: CNA/ec

This entry was posted in ASEAN, ASEAN Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), ASEAN SCS Code of Conduct (COC), Biển Đông (SCS) and tagged , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage dotchuoinon.com on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development (cvdvn.net). I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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