PALEMBANG, Indonesia: It is just a matter of time before the territorial rows in the Spratlys are settled peacefully and the region is declared a “peace zone,” a ranking Indonesian defense official said.
After 10 years of trying to convince claimants to come up with a Code of Conduct, Air Chief Marshall Djoko Suyanto, who is also Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs disclosed that the articles of the proposed code are being finalized.
“It took us 10 years to convince our partners to agree to a code of conduct. Finally, after explaining to our counterparts that the zone should be a peace zone and that every country has equal right for joint use for prosperity, the declaration of conduct will be transformed into a more legally binding contract,” Suyanto told the The Manila Times in an exclusive interview.
He said the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that are claiming parts of the Spratlys can deal with the problem as one united community, especially in the face of a much bigger threat that China poses.
“Asean communities agreed and its leaders agreed that if anything should happen between our countries we should talk about it in the context of being one Asean community. It is easier for us to take the view as one big united group rather than talk about between one country to another,” Suyanto said.
“Should we need to discuss something toward our counterparts outside Asean [like China], we should consolidate first as one big group with the same vision and views,” he said.
Suyanto said that while Indonesia has no claims in the Spratlys, “we cannot stay away from the issue” since it is part of a united Asean front.
“Indonesia’s message that we’re trying to convey is that the region should be free of conflict and there should be dynamic equilibrium. We are for joint use of the area,” Suyanto said.
The proposed code would be more binding and more operational because all claimants will work on its articles.
“The Asean foreign ministers are working on it now. It took a difficult 10 years to convince them to agree on a declaration of conduct. Now, a more binding Code of Conduct is being done,” he said.
He said China is expected to abide by the Code because it has to deal not only with a single country like the Philippines but the Asean as a whole.
“My perception is that now that they agreed on declaration of conduct and code of conduct, the issue has now shifted to how they will manage the articles of the Code,” Suyanto said.