Promote ASEAN's central role in settling South China Sea disputes

29/8/2022| 10:46

Maintaining ASEAN's central role, especially in managing disputes in the South China Sea, is the most effective measure to prevent potential conflicts in the region.

Promote ASEAN's central role in settling South China Sea disputesASEAN has been more effective than any other forum in managing potential conflicts and promoting regional security in the South China Sea. (Photo: AFP)

In an article published on the Asia-Pacific Social Policy Forum (APPS), Assoc. Duong Van Huy, Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, highlighted the importance of ASEAN in resolving regional disputes, especially those in the South China Sea.

ASEAN constantly affirms its role

Since the birth of the ASEAN Charter, the central role of ASEAN has been codified. It has become a goal and a guiding principle for all activities of ASEAN. It is understood as the main driving force in ASEAN's relations with partners, towards building an open, transparent, inclusive, and rules-based regional architecture.

In recent years, ASEAN has played a great role in keeping regional peace and trying to resolve disputes in the South China Sea. ASEAN has been more effective than any other forum in managing potential conflicts and promoting a sense of regional security in the South China Sea. The association has hosted the region's most important formal multilateral security forums. ASEAN, together with China, made efforts to sign the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002, which serves as a foundation for the future security of the South China Sea, even when its implementation is still challenging.

In an interview on the sidelines of the DOC 20th Anniversary Seminar on July 25, Nguyen Manh Dong, Vice Chairman of the National Border Committee recalled the background of the DOC's birth. Accordingly, in the face of complicated developments in the South China Sea area in the late 1990s, both ASEAN and China found it necessary to adopt a code of conduct to regulate the behavior of the parties.

However, during the negotiation process, the two sides could not reach a code of conduct. Instead, they agreed to sign the DOC on November 4, 2002. Through DOC, both sides hope to maintain the security, stability, and prosperity in the region and promote cooperation on the basis of international cooperation, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.

According to Nguyen Manh Dong, although the DOC is of great significance, in the past 20 years, the situation in the South China Sea has seen complicated developments. DOC is the first important document signed between ASEAN and a partner country, contributing to promoting peace, trust and cooperation between ASEAN and China. The declaration reaffirms the respect and commitment of the parties to the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS 1982.

ASEAN and China have made much progress in the negotiation of COC. Both sides have agreed that COC must be a substantive and effective document in accordance with international law. When a COC signed between ASEAN and China is adopted and respected and supported by the international community, the ability and role of ASEAN in managing differences and handling security issues in the region is further confirmed.

Promote ASEAN's central role in settling South China Sea disputesAt AMM-55 in early August, ASEAN Foreign Ministers agreed to propose relevant parties to resolve the South China Sea issue by peaceful means, on the basis of international laws. (Photo: Tuan Anh)

A crucial mission to the region's future security

ASEAN has an important position in dealing with the South China Sea issue. Regional security can be improved if regional policymakers support ASEAN's central role in resolving disputes in the South China Sea. The association's central role is also important to countries outside the region, both in managing potential conflicts among major powers and in building a security architecture for the Asia- Pacific region.

A strong ASEAN is the only way for the group of Southeast Asian countries to unite as a mediator. Therefore, the importance of ASEAN should be reflected in more ASEAN-led regional forums to promote regional cohesion and economic integration and most importantly, the enhancement of ASEAN's position and prestige in the international arena.

ASEAN should not let any unilateral ambitions erode its long-standing achievements in forming a security architecture in the South China Sea. It must be acknowledged that the central role of ASEAN cannot be built in a short time, but has a firm foundation from the association's achievements. ASEAN is actively managing the peace process among parties relevant to the South China Sea issues.

Policymakers, therefore, need to support ASEAN's participation in the settlement of disputes in the South China Sea and facilitate the association to achieve success in its mission, Assoc. Duong Van Huy wrote.

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