World leaders are expected to express their support for progress on the South China Sea question at an upcoming summit in Malaysia next month.
According to documents leaked ahead of the East Asia Summit, leaders from India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, the US and Russia will welcome talks between Asean and China that move toward a code of conduct in the sea, in an effort to prevent military conflict there.
A statement by Malaysia will encourage efforts “to build, maintain and enhance mutual trust and confidence; to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities; not to resort to the threat or use of force; and for the parties concerned to resolve their differences and disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
The statement follows meetings between Asean and Chinese officials in Chengdu, China, in October.
Chheang Vannarith, a lecturer at the University of Leeds, said the code of conduct represents the best way to ease tensions in the South China Sea. “If the COC is realized, it proves that China and Asean can work together to resolve regional issues,” he said. “China and Asean need to show sincerity and commitment in the COC negotiation.”
China is facing overlapping claims in the sea with Asean members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Ou Virak, head of the think tank Future Forum, told VOA Khmer that he welcomed the positive talks toward a code of conduct, but he was not convinced China is ready to give up its ambitions of exclusive control of the South China Sea.
“Apparently China thinks that the agreement with Asean is just to give warmth to Asean first, and after that China would continue to pressure gradually and will take the islands or take the South China Sea, through building additional islands and deploying troops on the artificial islands,” he said.