Security concerns in Southeast Asia supposedly caused by China’s reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) will be a “major topic” during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, next week, accoding to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
Territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea are going to be a part of a major discussion in the agenda because they concern “peace and stability of the region.”
“We are looking at Asean in terms of centrality, posture to be able to ensure peace and stability,” del Rosario said.
He added that the Philippines hopes that Asean will move together “in terms of ensuring that there is a full and effective implementation of the DOC [Declaration on the Code of Conduct] and the early, and I emphasize early, conclusion of the COC [Code of Conduct].”
The Asean Foreign Ministers’ Retreat will be held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, on January 27 to 28.
This will be Malaysia’s first event as chairman of the 10-member Asean this year.
Asean is composed of the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam.
Along with China and Taiwan, four members of Asean are claimants to the resource-rich West Philippine Sea. These are the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam.
Del Rosario said there are no plans for him to brief the rest of the foreign ministers on the reclamation projects being instigated by China in Philippine-claimed reefs in the West Philippine Sea.
He added that he believes that the foreign ministers “will talk about the massive reclamation that we are seeing, the threats it presents in terms of implications in freedom of navigation and rising tensions.”
China’s desire to change the status quo is “obviously” in violation of the DOC and the yet-to-be-concluded COC.
“I think I will emphasize it and invite the concerns of the Asean states because it [China’s wish] is a threat to all of us,” del Rosario said.