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The Senior Officials' Meeting for the Implementation of "the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" Reaches an Agreement on the Guideline
2011/07/20

The Senior Officials' Meeting for the Implementation of "the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" (the "Declaration"), which was held in Bali, Indonesia, on July 20, 2011, agreed on the text of the guideline to implement the "Declaration" and reached a series of important consensus on the future work, paving the way to advance the implementation process and push for pragmatic cooperation in the South China Sea.

The "Declaration" is a political document signed by China and ASEAN countries in November 2002, with the goal to maintain stability, enhance mutual trust and promote cooperation in the South China Sea and create favorable conditions and a good atmosphere for concerned countries to peacefully resolve disputes.

Since the signing of the "Declaration", China and ASEAN countries, guided by the purpose and principles of the "Declaration," maintained close communication and have active discussions on cooperation. China and ASEAN countries held two senior officials' meetings, and set up a joint working group, which had already held six meetings. China and ASEAN countries decided to conduct six cooperation projects such as disaster prevention and mitigation, marine search and rescue, and marine scientific research in the South China Sea, of which China and ASEAN countries will respectively undertake three projects.

The follow-up actions for the implementation of the "Declaration" have become an important platform for China and ASEAN countries to carry out dialogue and cooperation concerning the South China Sea and have played an irreplaceable role in maintaining stability in the South China Sea and deepening the China-ASEAN strategic partnership.

In order to guide the implementation of cooperation measures and projects within the framework of the "Declaration", China and ASEAN countries started consultations on developing guidelines for the implementation of the "Declaration" in recent years. During the discussions, the parties have constantly enhanced mutual understanding and continuously accumulated mutual trust and consensus. In the current circumstances, the parties recognized that completing the consultations on the guideline as quickly as possible, actively implementing the "Declaration" and promoting pragmatic cooperation is a necessary requirement to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and develop China-ASEAN relations. It therefore complies with the common interest of all parties.

The meeting was the first senior officials meeting since 2007, to which all parties attached great importance. The parties, in a forward-looking and cooperative spirit, had in-depth, frank and constructive discussions on the further implementation of the "Declaration" process and the future direction of cooperation and reached a series of important consensus. The meeting agreed to continue to hold senior officials meeting for the implementation of the "Declaration" when appropriate and hold the 7th meeting of the joint working group in China.

Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, a senior official on the Chinese side, elaborated on China's position to actively support the cooperation in the South China Sea at the meeting. He proposed that the parties shift the focus of the future work onto the pragmatic cooperation within the framework of the "Declaration". China put forward a series of cooperation initiatives, including hosting a workshop on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the establishment of three specialized technical committees on marine research and environmental protection, safety of navigation and search & rescue, and combating transnational crimes at sea. China promised to continue to host the three cooperation projects that had been confirmed. China's initiatives were positively responded by the parties.

2011 marks the 20th anniversary for the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue partnership and 2012 will be the 10th anniversary for the signing of the "Declaration". The parties believed that they should take advantage of these opportunities to make cooperation a main theme in the South China Sea and work together to build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation that links China and ASEAN countries.

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