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ASEAN-China Single Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct to Weaken U.S. Influence

On August 3, the foreign ministers of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their Chinese counterpart announced agreement on a Single Draft South China Sea Code of Conduct Negotiating Text (SDNT) that will serve as the basis for the adoption of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Among the proposals that China made, two of them are notable. The first is on cooperation on the marine economy and states that cooperation is to be carried out by the littoral states “and shall not be conducted in cooperation with companies from countries outside the region.” In contrast, Malaysia proposed that nothing in the Code of Conduct (COC) “shall affect… rights or ability of the Parties to conduct activities with foreign countries or private entities of their own choosing.” The marine economy includes aquaculture and oil and gas cooperation, and marine culture.

Another proposal is about joint military exercises. “The Parties shall establish a notification mechanism on military activities and will notify each other of major military activities if deemed necessary. The Parties shall not hold joint military exercises with countries from outside the region unless the parties concerned are notified beforehand and express no objection.”

China’s move is perceived at an attempt to weaken further any U.S. intervention in the South China Sea as the U.S. is considered as being among “countries outside the region.”

Shen Shishun, a scholar from the China Institute of International Studies, made it very clear in his interview with Russian based Sputnik News. “The so-called interference or factors of uncertainty mainly mean that some countries outside the region, out of a cold war mentality, are worried about the rise in influence of other countries in the region, and the decline of their own. They have adopted cold war tactics to provoke dissension among the countries in the region and to disrupt the situation in the South China Sea. It should be said that the interference of external forces is mainly from the United States. The U.S. global strategy is simple. It is to prevent any country from challenging its hegemonic status. The rise of China naturally has become its greatest threat. In fact, what the U.S. is doing does no good for Sino-U.S. relations, nor for regional peace and stability.”

Source: Sputnik News, August 4, 2018