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28th ARF calls for maintenance of security, freedom of navigation in East Sea

The Chairman’s Statement of the 28th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) has called for the maintenance of security and freedom of navigation in the East Sea, and acceleration of talks for the prompt signing of the Code of Conduct in the waters (COC).

The statement noted that the 28th ARF reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, prosperity, safety, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, which is known as the East Sea in Vietnam, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes, without coercion, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The meeting underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) in its entirety.

The forum also noted the positive progress in the ongoing negotiations on the COC despite the challenging COVID-19 situation, including the recent resumption of the textual negotiations of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text (SDNT), which has resulted in provisional agreement on the Preamble section, and looked forward to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC that is consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

This year, the ARF stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance trust and confidence amongst parties, and reaffirmed the importance of upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

Some delegates voiced their concerns on the land reclamation, activities and serious incidents in the area, including damage to the marine environment, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.

Participants reaffirmed the need to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

They also emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants, and avoidance of other activities that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the East Sea.

Regarding the situations in Myanmar, the meeting welcomed Myanmar’s commitment to the Five-Point Consensus adopted at the ASEAN Leaders Meeting on April 24 and acceptance for the timely and complete implementation of the agreement; along with the appointment of the Minister of Foreign Affairs II of Brunei to be the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar.

The statement reaffirmed ASEAN’s support for diplomacy and dialogue in achieving complete denuclearisation and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula./.