Negotiations for a code of conduct will take time, as South China Sea concerns are difficult to resolve: PM Lee

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated on Tuesday (Mar 5) that negotiations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a code of conduct on the South China Sea will require some time due to divergent national viewpoints on the matter. “The problems are not easily solved, and really, working through a code of conduct raises questions about what the final results will be,” Mr. Lee stated during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

 

“Because the ultimate answers are difficult, so too, negotiating the code will take quite some time.” Mr. Lee is in Melbourne for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit as well as the 9th Singapore-Australia Annual Leaders’ Meeting. The South China Sea is claimed by China and a number of nations in Southeast Asia, and Beijing’s broad assertion of sovereignty over a sizable portion of the waterway has caused tensions in the area. China and the Philippines have been at odds for some time now. Manila claims that China’s coast guard is trying to obstruct a government vessel.

 

According to Mr. Lee, although having distinct national viewpoints, ASEAN nations share a common stance on the South China Sea. Since the South China Sea is a “vital artery for international trade,” he continued, Singapore has an interest in freedom of navigation and the application of international law even though it has no rights in the disputed waters. According to Mr. Albanese, Australia has emphasized the value of freedom of navigation across the South China Sea and is a steadfast defender of the law of the sea. “Our position on China remains very consistent which is that we want to cooperate where we can, we’ll disagree where we must, but we will always engage in our national interest,” he stated.

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