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State councilor says consultations on COC in South China Sea can be concluded in time

Updated: Aug 01,2019 01:52 PM    Xinhua

BANGKOK — China believes the consultation on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea could be concluded in time as long as China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries work together and trust each other, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

Wang made the remarks in response to questions regarding the South China Sea issue at a news conference on July 30, after attending the China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting.

As to whether China and ASEAN countries can conclude the COC consultations, Wang said his answer is "definitely yes."

He said China and ASEAN countries have finished the first reading of the Single Draft Negotiating Text of the COC in the South China Sea ahead of schedule. It manifested China and ASEAN countries' capability, wisdom and willingness to reach agreement on the text of the COC as soon as possible, so as to formulate the regional rules followed by various sides.

As to whether China is active in the COC consultations, Wang said China has adopted an active manner since the very beginning, and it is fair to say that China has always been the main driving force in the consultation process.

"We recently set the goal of concluding the consultations within three years' time, which fully shows China's active manner in this regard," he said.

He believed that the COC consultations can be concluded in time or even ahead of schedule as long as China and ASEAN countries work together, trust each other and meet each other halfway.

As to whether the COC has binding force, Wang said the answer is also "definitely yes."

The COC is an upgraded and strengthened version of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), he said, adding that the DOC has played its role in safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea.

"Since we agreed to formulate a COC, surely there should be new improvement," he said, expressing his belief that the COC, when put in place, will be high-quality regional rules with more binding force and more concrete connotations that better meet the actual needs of the region.

Responding to the question on whether the COC would harm the interests of countries outside the region, Wang said the consultations on and implementation of the COC will make the situation in the South China Sea more stable, enable countries concerned to more effectively manage and control the disputes, and facilitate deeper cooperation between various sides.

Meanwhile, the normal freedom of navigation in and overflight above the region will be further safeguarded, and the legitimate rights and interests of non-regional countries will be better protected, he said.

"We, of course, hope that countries outside the region could understand, respect and support the consultations on and implementation of the COC so as to play a constructive role in maintaining the stability of the region, rather than doing the opposite," he said.

The peace and stability in the South China Sea serves the common interests of various sides, said Wang, adding that thanks to the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation of the South China Sea has been greatly improved in recent years, and there have been no problem regarding the freedom of navigation and overflight.

China has been strictly abiding by the DOC and has made positive contribution to the peace and stability in the South China Sea, he said.

"I hope that certain countries outside the region would not hype up certain particular issues and they should stop driving a wedge between China and ASEAN countries by making use of these issues," said Wang.

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