Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has called for the resumption of negotiations between Southeast Asian nations and China for a code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea which has been been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite travel restrictions that precluded face-to-face meetings, Locsin called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China to ensure that the process of talks on the code of conduct continues.
“It is imperative to bring everyone back to the negotiating table to demonstrate to the world that we are sincerely committed and determined to arrive at a conclusive result, one way or the other; but we must get down to sincere and serious work,” Locsin said at last week’s virtual ASEAN ministerial meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
In August 2018, ASEAN and China agreed to a single draft of the code of conduct or COC, with an agreement reached in November 2018 for both sides to finalize the document within three years, starting from 2019.
With all the delays caused by the pandemic to regional meetings, China’s preferred three-year deadline to conclude the document, aimed at restraining hostile acts in the waters, seem to be growing difficult each month.