US reaffirms position in South China Sea code negotiations


The United States made clear its position that the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea should also include the concerns and rights of third parties during its meetings with Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Singapore.

In a teleconference on Tuesday with reporters, US Mission to ASEAN Charges d’Affaires Piper Campbell said US Secretary Michael R. Pompeo raised the matter in all meetings during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meetings in Singapore.

“The Secretary in both his bilateral meetings, including China, Japan, Australia, the ASEAN member states and then in the meeting themselves, had numerous opportunities to make clear the consistent US position on the South China Sea including our belief that any Code of Conduct needs to incorporate the concerns and the rights of third parties,” she said.

Ms. Campbell said the US also stressed that no country should pressure other countries in the CoC negotiations.

“It’s important that all countries, regardless of their size, have the opportunity to represent their national interests as well as the very clear international principles including the principles that are enshrined in UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). So we continue to be consistent in the US position about the DoC (Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) and the CoC. That position is unchanged,” she said.

Previous reports indicated that China suggested military and energy explorations with Southeast Asian nations in South China Sea, based on a draft CoC document. China also stressed that countries outside the region, such as the US, should be excluded in the proposed activities.

ASEAN and China have arrived at a single draft CoC, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakhrishnan earlier said.

Sought for comment by reporters in a press briefing on Tuesday regarding the details of the CoC, Foreign Affairs Alan Peter S. Cayetano refused to divulge information, noting that “diplomatic space” is needed for ASEAN member states to negotiate.

He however expressed optimism with the Philippines taking over as country coordinator in the ASEAN-China negotiations.

“We’re going to wear more than two hats in this occasion. There’s going to be a lot faith in us — because we’re also claimant states — that we will not be one-sided,” he said.

He also noted the importance of the CoC given that the South China sea region has became major security concern around the world since it has also become a venue for regional rivalries.

“If we have a CoC and it’s effective, effective means it’s implemented well, everyone is doing their best and possibly that there will be enforcement mechanism, then you know it will give us stability and open doors for peaceful cooperation,” he said.