Indonesia is prepared to host a round of COC negotiations this year.
Indonesia set up negotiations to finalize the code of conduct.
ASEAN nations have competing claims in the crucial waterway with China.
Jakarta: Indonesia aims to step up negotiations with China and other Southeast Asian countries to finalize a code of conduct (COC) for the disputed South China Sea, its foreign minister said on Saturday, as tensions in the vital waterway rise.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was addressing in Jakarta at the conclusion of a conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the 10-member regional organization presided over by Indonesia this year.
“ASEAN’s outlook on the Indo-Pacific was central to the discussion,” she said. “We also discussed about the COC, the commitment of members to conclude the negotiation of the COC as soon as possible.”
Negotiations on the COC, a planned framework to aid in the resolution of territorial and maritime issues in the canal, have been deadlocked for years as some member states prioritize bilateral ties with China over regional consensus.
According to the foreign minister, Indonesia is prepared to host a round of COC negotiations this year, with the first taking place in March.
China claims sovereignty over practically the entire South China Sea based on its U-shaped “nine-dash line,” which the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said in 2016 had no legal basis.
The Philippines allowed the US increased access to its military sites earlier this week, in part due to Beijing’s broad claims in the resource-rich maritime area.
ASEAN nations the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei all have competing claims in the crucial waterway with China.
Although Indonesia is not an official claimant, it has received criticism from China on its development of oil and gas deposits in the North Natuna Sea. The government sent a warship to the area last month to keep an eye on a lingering Chinese coast patrol craft.
On the sidelines of the event, Sidharto R. Suryodipuro, director of ASEAN cooperation at Indonesia’s foreign ministry, said that “new approaches” would be explored by all ASEAN member states and Chinese counterparts to achieve progress on the COC.
“What’s important is that all agree that this should be an outlook that is implementable and in accordance with international law,” he said.
Separately, ASEAN members concluded their talks by reiterating their support for the bloc’s five-point peace plan for Myanmar, which includes the end of hostilities and the beginning of a dialogue.
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