Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei hopes to conclude a code of conduct (CoC) on the South China Sea by October, according to a report in The Economist.
The London-based news magazine quoted Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng as saying that ASEAN hoped to start talks with China soon to have "something concrete that we can sign" by the main ASEAN summit in October.
Though Brunei's claim is the smallest, as chair of ASEAN this year it is keen to implement a code of conduct to contain tensions in the resource-rich sea, where China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all have overlapping claims.
ASEAN wants collective negotiations, while China prefers bilateral talks with each claimant country.
The Economist reported that YB Pehin Dato Lim believed Brunei's relative obscurity should help it practise "quiet diplomacy" to repair ASEAN's breach with China, with both sides agreeing that the ASEAN-China relationship was bigger than the South China Sea dispute.
Major ASEAN meetings were marred by unprecedented bickering over the issue, with the Philippines and Vietnam accusing chair Cambodia of siding with China over the interests of ASEAN.
US Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden, who spoke to local media during a brief visit to Brunei, said yesterday: "It is deeply understood by all concerned that the South China Sea is an issue that needs to be managed by ASEAN properly.
"I'm sure His Majesty undertsands that, given his various responsibilities, particularly defence responsibilities. So I think His Majesty is very closely attuned to that. It is my hope this year that we will make progress on a code of conduct."
Carden said that, while his discussions with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on Thursday, did not touch on the South China Sea, they spoke broadly on Brunei's leadership of ASEAN this year.
"We (the United States) have no territorial role of any kind and we do not take sides as to who's right or wrong, but we do believe it needs to be resolved peacefully."--Courtesy of The Brunei Times