ASEAN and China must push and quickly conclude a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea for maritime stability so that the regional grouping can maintain its central role, said Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on August 6.
Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen
Ng added that the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) should also be strengthened, as it is "the legal framework on which both rights of navigation and claims of resources are based on".
For ASEAN to maintain its centrality, it must remain "neutral, inclusive and open", he said.
Speaking at the 20th Asia-Pacific Programme for Senior Military Officers organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, the minister said trade, ASEAN must focus on such areas as trade, connectivity and defence in order to maintain its central role.
While ASEAN needs to make collective efforts to avoid trade tensions, this bloc should also continue promoting multilateral free trade agreements signed with the EU and China, he said.
He also called on ASEAN member states to stay vigilant against security threats like terrorism.
Last week, at the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting on the sidelines of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore, Foreign Minister of the host country Vivian Balakrishnan said that ASEAN and China have agreed on a “single draft” negotiating text of the COC in the East Sea.
They have also agreed on the "key modalities" for future rounds of negotiations, he added.