The agreement on the Guidelines on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea is a “momentous and historic” landmark, and a reflection that the ASEAN Regional Forum works, said the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan.
This sentiment was shared by Chinese Foreign Minister Mr Yang Jiechi, who described the agreement as a “very important” landmark.
The two leaders met at the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting in Bali, co-chaired by Viet Nam and China.
“China will actively cooperate with ASEAN in the drafting of the Code of Conduct,” said Mr Yang. Quoting from the Chinese saying that “a thousand mile journey begins with the first step”, he stressed that it was an important first step by China and ASEAN “towards practical cooperation, and building mutual trust”.
The announcement of the agreement on the Guidelines on Wednesday, made headlines across the Asia-Pacific, with many media analysing its importance and impact to peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Dr Surin and Mr Yang agreed that 2011 is an important year for ASEAN and China, as it marks the 20th anniversary of bilateral ties. A series of celebratory activities have been planned in Beijing and ASEAN. Dr Surin pointed out that the focus to bring the celebrations to the people, dovetails with Indonesia’s emphasis on a people-centred ASEAN.
Indonesia is the Chair of ASEAN this year, and Jakarta has virtually pulled out all stops to make sure its Chairmanship is a meaningful one.
On the future of bilateral relations, Dr Surin and Mr Yang agreed that an important cornerstone in its relations is the exchange among our youth – especially the exchange of students between ASEAN and China.
Both leaders are also looking forward to a successful summit this year to wrap up the celebrations.
Mr Yang noted that for the first decade of this millennium, China and ASEAN have jointly achieved the biggest free-trade area of the developing world, and the two sides should build on this and aim for another landmark achievement in the second decade.
The upbeat sentiments were also expressed by Viet Nam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr Pham Gia Khiem.
The Ministers expressed their commitment to work together in implementing the ASEAN-China Plan of Action, and in developing collaborative activities to strengthen ASEAN-China connectivity.
On the South China Sea issue, the Ministers noted China’s exhortation to make the area “a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation”. They also noted the importance attached by China to freedom of navigation and safety.