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ASEAN leaders go soft on China

While stressing the need to settle disputes peacefully, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations opted to go soft on the South China Sea issue based on the final chairman’s statement in the 30th ASEAN Summit.

Unlike in the draft chairman’s statement provided to the members of the media Saturday, the final statement omitted sentences referring to activities in the South China Sea that may cause tension among the claimants.

The draft chairman’s statement that said that actions like land reclamation and militarization should be avoided in order not to further complicate the situation was removed from President Duterte’s statement as chairman of the summit.

It also did not mention the abiding by “universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” that was in the draft statement.

“We reaffirmed the importance of the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and avoiding actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursuing the peaceful resolution of disputes, without resorting to the threat or use of force,” the final chairman’s statement released yesterday said.

However, the final statement noted how some ASEAN leaders expressed concerns over recent development in the South China Sea.

The final statement 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. It also noted the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China. (Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)