ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers Meet discuss challenges

    The ministers meeting on 07 June marks the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-China relations and it comes amid tensions in the South China Sea.

    CHONGQING — On 31 May Chinese warplanes entered Malaysia’s maritime zone air space and flew within 60 nautical miles of Sarawak. Malaysia called it a “breach of its airspace and sovereignty.”

    The situation in the South China Sea is one of the challenges faced by the regional bloc and China that officials have been “working [on] in the last few years,” trying to make progress on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea says Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

    Expected to be finalized by the end of 2021, the final code has been stalled as the coronavirus pandemic slowed down the economy and the health crisis got extended because virus variants and mutations emerged.

    “This morning the officials met. And all this again is preparatory work for what I hope will be progress in the years to come to a substantive Code of Conduct, Dr Balakrishnan says.

    The code is expected to improve stability, security, peace, and opportunity for prosperity across Southeast Asia, and in the South China Sea between us and China, he further says.

    Singapore’s foreign minister also acknowledged the “effective cooperation” between China and the ASEAN since the start of the pandemic. He also took note China’s provision of vaccines and medical supplies to the region.

    As early as April this year, both China and Singapore have agreed on the “timely initiative” of recognizing health certificates as the two countries are lookin forward to restarting vaccine rollouts and safe travel. Both parties are in the process of sorting travel protocols.

    Other items discussed are some ‘successes’. The past three decades of diplomatic ties have been “momentous” with China and ASEAN’s economic development says Dr Balakrishnan.

    Besides the time to “reflect on successes” the meeting is also an occasion to discuss ways to move forward on challenges confronting China and ASEAN.

    Economic recovery is a “fertile” area he identified ripe for discussion looking forwards including opportunities for investment—particularly relating to the Belt and Road Initiative.

    Talks on sustainable development provides “ample opportunities for collaboration in the future”, he said. (TC/The MiNT)

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