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China sees role for Indonesia in S. China Sea

Publication Date : 26-09-2012


China expects that Indonesia will maintain its constructive role in creating an appropriate situation for China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to move forward in easing tension and reaching consensus in the South China Sea dispute.

"China reiterated its hope that Indonesia maintained its constructive role in dealing with South China Sea," Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said after his meeting with Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, during the UN General Assembly session in New York on Monday.

Indonesia is seen as a key player in the South China Sea dispute between China, which claims almost all of it, and Asean countries Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, which claim parts of it.

Indonesia is not a claimant, but has put a lot of effort into harmonising Asean. Friction among Southeast Asian countries came to the surface following the unprecedented failure to issue any paragraph on South China Sea at the association's ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh in July.

Then, Indonesia took the initiative to recalibrate Asean through a 36-hour effort, shuttle diplomacy, visits and phone contacts to reach a common Asean position.

Natalegawa underlined the significance of Asean unity, if the association wants to play a key role in the region. Despite forging a common position after his efforts in July, Asean unity will still be tested from time to time. "Unity will still be tested. Asean that is central in the region can only be reached if Asean itself is united and cohesive," he said.

Furthermore, China has agreed to Indonesian view to implement the declaration of conduct, which is in accordance with the process of reaching the code of conduct. Both have agreed to move forward the Asean-China process to reach consensus of code of conduct.

"At first, China was not enthusiastic with the process. However, it has shifted, after we tried to create a comfort level for conflicting parties to start a dialogue. It goes naturally, without any pressure," Natalegawa said.

Both Indonesia and China realise the importance of regional security and favourable conditions to maintain a regional prosperity. "This situation should be maintained. We discussed that common steps should be taken to maintain stability in the region, including in the South China Sea."

Differences have arisen on how to draft a code of conduct to prevent clashes over the claims. China wants a part in drafting the code of conduct. However, the Philippines wants Asean members to complete a version among themselves before discussing it with China.

Any conflict in the sea, one of the world’s busiest trade routes, would have global repercussions given the US$5 trillion in shipborne trade carried through its waters each year.


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