Discussions among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China over the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea are not yet over.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary for ASEAN Affairs Daniel Espiritu gave the update on Thursday as he said matters concerning the disputed waters were not included in the recently concluded 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM), where ASEAN members and China participated.
“The AMM and related meetings did not include negotiations on the COC itself,” he said in a press conference.
On July 28, Espiritu bared that “there is already a sort of agreement” among ASEAN countries and China on what to do during certain situations in the South China Sea to avoid escalation of tension. For him, it was a breakthrough as far as the COC is concerned.
“It’s more on specific situations that may happen in the South China Sea. [It’s] not exactly rights, but let’s say unexpected encounters: What if two naval vessels meet each other? What if a coast guard vessel goes near a certain feature?” he said.
“These are now microcosmic issues that are no longer covered by UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)—still covered by UNCLOS but not specifically,” he added.
According to Espiritu, a second round of negotiation will be chaired by Myanmar, “but there is no schedule for that yet and no venue.”
“As for the possible timeline that we’re looking at, there’s no possible timeline… As I said the negotiations are open,” he said.
“We don’t know how long will it take. And we’ll be there until it’s over,” he added.