Pakistan supports Beijing on South China Sea talks

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday voiced support for China on resumption of ‘Code of Conduct’ (CoC) negotiations in South China Sea.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while virtually participating in the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum (ARF), reaffirmed “Pakistan’s support for the ongoing negotiations of Code of Conduct and underlined that the concerned parties may find solution through consensus”.

Mr Qureshi announced that Pakistan will be co-hosting the 24th ARF Heads of Defence Universities/Colleges/Institutions Meeting with Malaysia in 2021.

The CoC, which is being negotiated between China and the 10-member Asean, aims to manage the actions of countries within the South China Sea, many of whom have disputing territorial claims. China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the resource-rich area.

The Code of Conduct was to provide for dispute management and stability building in the South China Sea. The CoC is based on a 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the 10 Asean states.

The parties had at the 22nd Asean-China summit held in 2019 agreed to finalise the CoC by 2021.

The CoC negotiations had been slow because of differences over dispute settlement mechanisms; conflict management; and the legal status of the CoC. The talks could not take place this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The schedule of talks for this year included meetings in Brunei in February, in the Philippines in May, Indonesia in August and China in October.

The US involvement in South China Sea has also further complicated the talks.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had last month urged Asean countries to resume CoC talks.

Mr Wang had said the US military presence in the region was driving a wedge between China and Asean, and disrupting the CoC consultation process.

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