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Vietnam calls for early completion of Code of Conduct in the Bien Dong Sea

Valerie Mai Valerie Mai

mnghonganh@gmail.com

June 17, 2021 | 14:52

Vietnam Minister of National Defence raised maritime and South China Sea security issues during the 8th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus.

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Vietnam calls for early completion of Code of Conduct in the Bien Dong Sea
Minister of National Defence Sen. Lieut. Gen. Phan Van Giang. (Photo: VNA)

Minister of National Defence Sen. Lieut. Gen. Phan Van Giang touched upon maritime and East Sea security issues during the course of the 8th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+) which was held on the morning of June 16.

Minister of National Defense Phan Van Giang said peace, cooperation, and stability were key to regional security, but there were security threats that need to be dealt with sooner than later, according to Vnexpress.

In particular, the Bien Dong Sea, known internationally as the South China Sea, plays an important role in the global supply chain, Giang said, adding that relevant parties should cooperate with each other and carry out appropriate solutions to guarantee their legal rights.

"Vietnam believes that all relevant parties need to strictly abide by the principle of resolving disputes by peaceful means, on the basis of respect for international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). At the same time, it is necessary to soon complete an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the Bien Dong Sea (COC)," Gen. Giang said.

He said that maritime forces of all countries involved must exercise the utmost restraint and should not take actions that contribute to increasing tensions and complicating the situation in any form. “Continuing to fully implement the Declaration of the Parties on Conduct in the Bien Dong Sea (DOC) as well as the 1982 UNCLOS is needed now more than ever. And we also need to treat fishermen humanely in any circumstances and situations at sea," said the leader of the Vietnamese Defence Minister.

Vietnam calls for early completion of Code of Conduct in the Bien Dong Sea
A screenshot of the 8th ADMM+ meeting held online. (Photo: VN Express)

At the ADMM+ meeting, a joint statement put together by 18 Defence Ministers was issued. The statement was given in response to maritime security challenges, as well as handling maritime issues in the region, with ADMM+ countries emphasizing the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability and prosperity, safety, and freedom of both navigation and aviation, VOV cited.

The 18 respective defense leaders agreed upon the need to strengthen mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint, avoid actions that further complicate the situation, and pursue a peaceful dispute resolution, without coercion, in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

The statement also acknowledged the existence of unprecedented security challenges like transnational cybersecurity issues and emergency medical issues, including natural disasters and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

What is COC?

Methods to settle tensions on the Bien Dong Sea have been mentioned since the 1990s, one of which is to build a code of conduct in the South China Sea. After a lot of effort, the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” (DOC) in 2002, which mentions general contents that is expected to be put in the code of conduct, including:

- Commitment to the United Nations Charter, 1982 UNCLOS, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and other universally recognized principles of international law;

- Resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means;

- Exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.

The DOC also mentions methods to built trust, develop cooperation and dialogue, resolve tensions. In its text, DOC confirms "the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea would further promote peace and stability in the region and agree to work, on the basis of consensus, towards the eventual attainment of this objective."

However, the DOC is a non-binding document. Therefore, countries are trying to reach a code of conduct (COC) as a binding document to resolve tensions.

COC negotiation process

The “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” (DOC) was supposed to kick off the negotiation for an actual code of conduct (COC). However, the formulation of implementation guidelines got adopted only in July 2011, as China and ASEAN had difficulties agreeing on consultation procedures. From the adoption of these implementation guidelines, it took another six years, until, in 2017, ASEAN and China agreed on a framework that listed the issues for the COC. In 2018, a Single Draft Negotiating Text (SDNT). The year after that brought the 20-page First Draft of the planned COC, according to The Diplomat.

According to the schedule, ASEAN and China should finish the code by 2021. However, due to the pandemic, negotiations have been prolonged.

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Valerie Mai