China, ASEAN reaffirm free navigation, overflight over South China Sea

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China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday reaffirmed their respect of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea under principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

According to a joint statement issued after a bilateral summit, the two sides also agreed to resolve the territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.

The statement, which was released after the 19th China-ASEAN leaders’ meeting to commemorate the 25th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, added that they also undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.

Related to the South China Sea issue, the two sides also committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety and working substantively toward the early adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea based on consensus.

The statement added that China and ASEAN will continue to strengthen dialogue and cooperation to enhance mutual understanding and friendship, promote defense exchanges and security cooperation to address common security issues, including combating terrorism, transnational threats and other non-traditional security challenges in pursuit of regional peace and stability.

On economic issues, the two sides agreed to further deepen and expand mutually-beneficial economic cooperation, including through the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, to work towards the early and successful conclusion of “a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.”

According to the statement, China and ASEAN will continue to strengthen cooperation in the area of connectivity that will bring mutual benefits, including through capacity building and resource mobilization for the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, to explore ways to improve connectivity between both sides by synergizing common priorities identified in the master plan and China’s Belt and Road initiative, and encourage the active involvement of relevant multilateral financial institutions.

The two sides also vowed to continue strengthening cooperation in environmental protection, sustainable development and management of land and water resources, biodiversity conservation as well as address transboundary challenges, and strengthening dialogue and cooperation in the international climate change and other environment-related negotiations.

On bilateral ties, the two sides are committed to enhancing the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for mutual benefit, including through the full and effective implementation of the 2016-2020 Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity, said the statement.

China welcomes the establishment of the ASEAN Community, and reaffirms its continued support for ASEAN’s integration process and ASEAN Centrality in the evolving regional architecture.

While for ASEAN’s part, it said that China’s development is an important opportunity for the region, and it supports China’s peaceful development, adding that ASEAN countries also reaffirm adherence to the one-China policy. (VIENTIANE, Sept. 7/PNA/Xinhua)

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