Realism needed on S China Sea code of conduct


China’s sudden renewed interest in drafting a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea — by June this year — is sparking irrational exuberance in the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean).

But the “framework” China is talking about is actually nothing but a skeleton of the agreement. It can be laid down in less than 60 minutes.

The Chinese side has yet to reveal its intention on how to flesh out the skeleton, to give the long-delayed COC real substance. At least five old questions remain unanswered.

What will be the COC’s geographical scope?

This was the same question that troubled Asean and Chinese officials in 2001-2002, when they first tried to formulate a COC.