ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thailand to coordinate on Asean-China ties
The main objectives of the cooperation between China and the regional bloc are to enhance the Asean community, to have connectivity and to establish a regional code of conduct for the South China Sea.
Thailand will play a constructive role and create a positive atmosphere in the region to move forward the many areas of cooperation that Asean currently enjoys with China, said the ministry's Asean Affairs Department director-general, Arthayudh Srisamoot.
The South China Sea is just one of many elements in the relations between Asean and China, he said, adding that Beijing is a major partner of the grouping and continues to play a crucial role in regional development.
The South China Sea became a hot issue at this week's Asean meeting in Phnom Penh, with China involved in territorial disputes with a number of Asean members, notably the Philippines and Vietnam.
In 2002, Asean and China signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, but the document is non-binding and intended for mostly soft issues such as maritime scientific research and environmental protection.
Asean now wants to have a binding regional code of conduct for parties in the region.
On Monday, Asean foreign ministers reached common ground during their meeting in Phnom Penh on the "key elements" that they wanted included in the code of conduct.
Thailand as coordinator will co-chair a meeting with China in Cambodia in September to consult on these elements in an attempt to establish negotiations on the code of conduct.
Follow-up meetings between China and Asean would take place later to continue the talks.
Zhang Jianmin, spokesman of the Chinese delegation to this week's Asean meeting, said China is willing to settle disputes over the sovereignty of some islands and the delimitation of some waters in the South China Sea peacefully.
Pending settlement of the disputes, "the parties concerned may put aside their differences and engage in joint development", he added.
Beijing has also offered to host a meeting with Asean in China on a code of conduct after the September meeting takes place.
However, the regional grouping first has many differences among its member states to overcome.
This week, they found it difficult to build consensus over the language mentioning the situation in the South China Sea in their joint communique, which was supposed to have been issued after the meeting of foreign ministers on Monday.
Ministers of the 10-member grouping called a special meeting yesterday to discuss how to address a recent development in the area, namely, a Scarborough Shoal stand-off between Philippine and Chinese ships.
Manila wanted the grouping to voice concern over the incident, but Cambodia as the current chair did not.
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