Peaceful resolution to sea row sought
FOREIGN ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Thursday (Friday in Manila) met with United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington in a united front against North Korea’s nuclear tests.
The ministers and Tillerson gathered for a “Special Asean-US Foreign Ministers’ Meeting,” in which they also called for a peaceful resolution to the maritime row in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
A statement released after the meeting, the first under the Trump White House, said the ministers and Tillerson discussed the situation in the Korean Peninsula and expressed grave concern over the escalation of tensions.
“We strongly urge the DPRK to fully comply with its obligations arising from all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions and international laws,” they said, referring to the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had warned the US against using firepower against Pyongyang, and on Wednesday urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to play a bigger role in defusing tensions.
Duterte said his phone conversation with Xi was at the behest of Trump, who called the Philippine leader at the end of the Asean summit in Manila on April 29.
The Asean ministers and Tillerson also called for an “early agreement on the framework and expeditious conclusion of a code of conduct in the South China Sea,” an effort being led by the Philippines as chairman of Asean this year.
“We also discussed the issue of South China Sea and both sides underscored the importance of the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos),” they added.
Manila hopes talks on the framework for the code of conduct would be concluded during its 2017 Asean chairmanship.
The framework will be the foundation of the code, which will lay down guidelines on how countries claiming parts of the sea, including China, will deal with the dispute.
A 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea is legally non-binding. Asean leaders nonetheless “underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety” during the Asean summit in Manila last month.
Eager to meet Trump
Asean ministers marked the 40th anniversary of Asean-US relations, and expressed “eagerness” to meet President Trump, who is expected to attend in November the 5th Asean-US Summit and the 12th East Asia Summit in the Philippines, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam.
US Vice President Mike Pence announced Trump’s decision to join the Asean meetings in a visit to the Jakarta headquarters of the Asean in April.
Asean and US diplomats and leaders met in Kuala Lumpur in November 2015 and Sunnylands, California in February 2016.
“We appreciated the commitments by the US to Asean including supporting Asean Community building and regional integration efforts,” the statement said.