The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
FORMER MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

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Media Release

FA162 - 5 November 2002

Australia Welcomes Declaration on the South China Sea

I welcome the agreement between ASEAN member states and the People's Republic of China on a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was signed in Phnom Penh on 4 November 2002. The Declaration commits parties to promote peace and stability in the South China Sea, where there are a number of overlapping territorial claims.

This Declaration, which sets out the principles to guide conduct in the South China Sea, is good news for Australia. We have a strong interest in avoiding destabilising conflict in our region and in ensuring freedom of navigation in an area through which much of our commercial shipping passes.

Australia has been an advocate of a regional code of conduct for the South China Sea for several years. At the ASEAN Regional Forum in July 1999, I put forward some informal suggestions on what such a code might contain.

I am pleased to note that the Declaration features several of these suggested elements. These include undertakings to refrain from inhabiting presently uninhabited reefs and to exercise self-restraint; and an implicit acknowledgement by claimants of the existence of other competing claims.

The Declaration alone cannot resolve territorial issues at the heart of the South China Sea dispute, nor does it impose legally-binding or enforceable obligations on parties. This will require the continuing political commitment of parties if it is to contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the region.

Australia will continue to encourage all parties to abide by their new undertakings in this Declaration.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) +61 02 6277 7500 / Lyndall Sachs (Departmental) +61 02 6261 1555


 

Local Date: Tuesday, 07-Jan-2014 10:28:26 EST

 

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