ASEAN seeks collective stance on South China Sea

ASEAN seeks collective stance on South China Sea

Ministers of ASEAN Saturday sought a collective stance over the recent development in the South China Sea, where fresh rows between China and ASEAN members the Philippines and Vietnam are looming.

Foreign ministers of the regional grouping gathered on Saturday in Myanmar's Nay Pyi Taw prior to the 24th summit of their leaders due Sunday.

China and Vietnam are in the loggerhead this week, only days before the summit, when Beijing sent an oil rig and other vessels into the area near Paracel islands where Vietnam claimed its exclusive economic zone. Vietnam said its ships were damaged and crews were injured when Chinese vessels fired water cannon to them.

Meanwhile the Philippines arrested 11 Chinese fishermen on Wednesday in the area near Half Moon shoal where both Beijing and Manila claimed.

The ASEAN would collectively express concern over the latest development in South China Sea but would not antagonize China or target to put blames on any particular parties in the incidents, said Thailand's Foreign Ministry's Permanent Secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow.

The group would call all party to respect the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, said Sihasak who represented Thailand in the ministerial meeting in Myanmar.

The ASEAN needed to address its common stance over the situation which might affect regional security and also to prove that ASEAN centrality really existed for regional security architecture, he said.

Ministers of the group are now discussing whether they should issue a separate statement on the issue of South China Sea or made the stance included as a part of Chairman statement to be issued after the ASEAN summit on Sunday.

In the ministerial meeting Saturday, foreign ministers of the group would also discuss preparation for transformation of 2015 ASEAN community where many tasks remained to be completed before the end of next year as well as explore post 2015 community vision.

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