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ASEAN leaders express concern over sea row

Some leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have expressed concern over the maritime dispute in the South China Sea but will not mention the Philippines’ victory against China in an international arbitration court in the The Hague, Netherlands.

Excerpts from the draft chairman’s statement showed that some of the leaders share serious concern over the recent developments and escalation of activities in the area. They feared these may further raise tensions and erode trust and confidence in the region.

However, it did not mention the concerns of some leaders on the land reclamation in the disputed waters that was stressed last year when Laos hosted the annual gathering of leaders.

“We reaffirmed the importance of enhancing mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, avoiding actions that may further complicate the situation,” the statement read.

The leaders also stressed the importance of pursuing peaceful resolution of disputes, including through full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The statement also said that the leaders reaffirm the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security, and freedom of navigation in and over-flight over the South China Sea.

The leaders also underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety.

“We were pleased with the progress to complete a framework of the Code of Conduct, in order to facilitate the early adoption of the CoC within the ASEAN-China process,” the statement read. (Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)