After long years of consultations and discussions on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), China and Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) senior officials have finally wrapped up talks on the Code of the Conduct (COC) draft framework.

The milestone achievement was reached during the 14th Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC held at the New World Hotel in this bustling mountain town of Guizhou province.

”On the COC, we are pleased to announce that the senior officials have completed the negotiations on the draft COC framework,” Chee Wee Kiong, co-chair of the 14th China-ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting, announced in a joint press conference after the meeting.

Chee, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Singapore and coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, said the draft COC framework will be submitted during the China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Conference to be held in the Philippines in August this year.

For his part, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and China-ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting co-chair Liu Zhenmin commended his fellow senior officials from 10-member ASEAN for hard work and dedication.

”Taking this opportunity, I wish to positively commend and highly appreciate the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation demonstrated by the senior officials and friends from 10 member ASEAN states,” Liu said.

During the meeting, Liu said the parties agreed to continue to advance the full and effective implementation of the DOC and its entirety.

”On the COC consultation, we work diligently and completed the consultation on the framework of the COC,” the Chinese official said.

The Chinese senior official clarified that the consultation on the COC will continue and without “outside interference.”

Liu said the draft framework of COC was not only done during the 14th Senior Official’s Meeting but “it was an accumulated outcome of our efforts for the past several years.”

”The consultation on the COC started back in 2013 and over the past four years of concerted efforts, this process has been going on steadily and the completion of the COC framework has delivered a tangible milestone achievement with this process.” he added.

Liu said the content of the COC draft framework reflects the basic principles and spirit of the DOC.

”The COC consultation is a concrete implementation of the DOC framework. Eventually when the COC is completed, it will be an enhancement to the DOC,” Liu said.

The Chinese official admitted that “it is very difficult to agree in all elements (of the draft COC framework) and it takes time.”

Chee attributed the success of the meeting to the stable situation in the South China Sea and to the series of meetings since the implementation of the DOC in 2002.

”We discussed the South China Sea issue and for the past months, there have been no major disruptions and the situation in the South China Sea and the region has been stable,” he said.

When asked if the COC will be adopted in the next five years, Liu said it would be up to the ASEAN member countries.

”What I can say is that China will make joint efforts with 10 ASEAN member states to arrive at final COC,” he said.

Aside from Liu and Chee Wee, the senior officials in attendance include Maria Hellen Barber-Dela Vega of the Philippines, Emaleen Abd Rahman Teo of Brunei Darussalam, Kah Pharidh of Cambodia, Jose Antonio Morato of Indonesia, Phongsavanh Sisoulath of Laos, Joji Samuel M C Samuel of Malaysia, U Myint Thu of Myanmar, Busaya Mathelin of Thailand and Nguyen Quoc Dzung of Vietnam. (PNA)