A foreign ministers’ meeting on June 14 between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be a good opportunity to dispel doubts about China and ease tension in the South China Sea, experts said.
Beijing is ready to discuss further promoting and upgrading China-ASEAN cooperation and “jointly ensuring peace and stability in the South China Sea”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on June 13 during a briefing on the meeting.
At the meeting, which will be held in Yuxi, Yunnan province, China hopes for an in-depth exchange of views on topics including China-ASEAN ties and fully implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, Lu said.
The declaration is a key document, signed by China and the 10 ASEAN member countries in 2002, that endorses political settlement of maritime disputes.
The 11 countries held their 12th senior officials meeting on fully implementing the declaration on June 9 in Hanoi.
Jia Duqiang, a senior researcher on Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the meeting will be a good opportunity for China and the ASEAN countries to sit down for a productive and candid discussion.
Jia said the discussions inevitably will consider the potential impact of the Philippines’ arbitration case against China on the South China Sea issue.
“The ASEAN countries are worried that the peace and stability of the whole region will be at stake,” Jia said.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of dialogue between China and ASEAN. A commemorative summit to mark the anniversary will be held in September, and Tuesday’s meeting will help prepare for it, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu said.
The meeting is expected to show “emphasis and expectations by both sides on advancing China-ASEAN cooperation”, Lu said.
Luo Yuan, a researcher at the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Science, said the South China Sea issue is “not between China and all the ASEAN countries”.
He said some ASEAN members not directly involved in the issue “have displayed their willingness to downplay the disputes” at recent international events.