Wang Yi Responds to Four Questions on the Consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC)
On July 31, 2019 local time, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Chinese and foreign media after attending the China-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.
When answering the questions on the South China Sea, Wang Yi said, all the parties are now concerned about the ongoing consultations on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea. Some of the countries outside the region have a number of questions, and I would like to elaborate the Chinese side’s position.
First, as to whether China and the ASEAN countries can conclude the COC consultations, my answer is definitely yes. At present, the first reading of the single draft negotiating text of the COC has been completed ahead of schedule. It fully demonstrates China and the ASEAN countries’ capability, wisdom and willingness to reach an agreement on the text of the COC as soon as possible, so as to formulate the regional rules followed by all sides.
Second, as to whether China holds an positive attitude in the COC consultations, I would like to tell you that China has adopted a positive manner since the very beginning, and it is fair to say that China has always been the main driving force in the consultation process.
We have recently set the goal of concluding the consultations within three years’ time, which fully shows China’s positive manner in this regard. We believed that the COC consultations can be concluded in time or even ahead of schedule as long as China and the ASEAN countries work together, trust each other and meet each other halfway.
Third, as to whether the COC has binding force, the answer is also definitely yes. The COC is an upgraded and strengthened version of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). The DOC has played its role in safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea. Since we agreed to formulate a COC, surely there should be more improvement. It is believed that the COC, when put in place, will be high-quality regional rules with more binding force and more concrete connotations that better meet the actual needs of the region.
Fourth, as to whether the COC would harm the interests of countries outside the region, I can assure you that the consultations on and implementation of the COC will make the situation in the South China Sea more stable, enable countries concerned to more effectively manage and control disputes, and facilitate deeper cooperation among all sides.
Meanwhile, the normal freedom of navigation in and overflight above the region will be further safeguarded, and the legitimate rights and interests of non-regional countries will be better protected. We, of course, hope that countries outside the region could earnestly understand, respect and support the consultations on and implementation of the COC so as to play a constructive role in maintaining the stability of the region, rather than doing the opposite.
Wang Yi noted, the peace and stability in the South China Sea serves the common interests of all sides. Thanks to the joint efforts of China and the ASEAN countries, the situation of the South China Sea has been considerably improved in recent years, and there have been no problem regarding the freedom of navigation and overflight.
The Chinese side has always been strictly abiding by the DOC and has made positive contributions to the peace and stability in the South China Sea. It is hoped that certain countries outside the region would not hype up certain particular issues and they should stop driving a wedge between China and the ASEAN countries by making use of these issues.