Sultan suggests hotline to avoid undesired incidents at sea
Danial Norjidi

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the Asean leaders have underlined their wish to urgently work on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea and the monarch yesterday personally emphasised the importance of having practical procedures in place to assist in avoiding undesired incidents at sea.

His Majesty put forward these points while responding to a question posed during a press conference at the 22nd Asean Summit yesterday, held at the Prime Minister’s Office building.

The monarch was asked for his thoughts on the issue, and on what he felt would be the correct way forward, to which His Majesty responded by highlighting that the subject matter can be found in the Chairman’s Statement, before going on to emphasise a number of points.

“We have had a good discussion among leaders, and there has been some progress since last year,” said His Majesty. “We have agreed on what I see as a two-step approach.

“Firstly, the overlapping claims are for the claimant states to deal with,” continued the monarch. “Secondly, both Asean and China wish to promote a calm and peaceful atmosphere, and to urgently work on the Code of Conduct (COC).

“We would like all parties con-cerned to seize the current positive momentum and reach an agreement on the Code of Conduct, and we all agree to encourage continuing discussions, dialogue and consultation at all levels especially among claimant countries, and to keep the lines of communication open.

“We stress on the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties between Asean and China,” His Majesty added.

The ruler then went on to add, “In my view, it is important to have in place practical procedures which could assist in avoiding undesired incidents at sea.

“For instance, if there is a major storm, fishermen may need to take temporary shelter in disputed areas,” elaborated the monarch.

“Such innocent incidents may be misinterpreted, and therefore it would be appropriate to have established procedures.”

One such example His Majesty suggested was to have a hotline to avoid misunderstandings.

“I personally have held a number of consultations with concerned countries on this matter, and I will continue to do so in the coming months,” His Majesty added.

In the Chairman’s Statement of the 22nd Asean Summit, the leaders and heads of Asean Member States underlined that they discussed the situation in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the importance of peace, stability and maritime security in the region.

It is stated that the leaders underscored the importance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, Asean’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea, and the Joint Statement of the 10th Anniversary of the DOC.

“In this regard, we have reaffirmed the collective commitments under the DOC towards ensuring the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, without resorting to the threat or use of force, while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities,” read the statement.

The leaders also look forward to continuing engagement with China in implementing the DOC in a full and effective manner, including through mutually agreed joint cooperative activities and projects.

“Taking into account the importance of the 10th anniversary of the Asean-China Strategic Partnership in 2013 and the positive momentum following the 19th Asean-China Senior Officials’ Consultations, we tasked our ministers to continue to work actively with China on the way forward for the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea on the basis of consensus,” the statement said. - Borneo Bulletin (26 April 2013)