ASEAN chief pushes RI to act on South China Sea dispute

(Jakarta Post) ASEAN Secretary-general Le Luong Minh utilized his meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday to ask for Indonesia’s help to address the South China Sea territorial dispute which grew more tense following China’s move to allow tourists to visit the disputed Paracel Islands.


Minh, formerly Vietnamese deputy foreign minister, paid a courtesy visit to Yudhoyono at his office on Monday. It was the first formal meeting between the two leaders since Minh was inaugurated on Jan. 7.

“I appreciate Indonesia and President Yudhoyono for the strengthening of ASEAN, especially in progress towards the ASEAN community,” Minh told the press.

Minh’s meeting with Yudhoyono focuses on the establishment of the ASEAN community by 2015 and ways to reduce tension in the South China Sea, disputed by China, four ASEAN members (Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam) and Taiwan.

“To be able to achieve the ASEAN community and focus on progress, we need to have an environment of peace and stability and a standard code of conduct is very important in this context. We look forward to coordinating with member states especially Indonesia,” he said.

Presidential foreign affairs spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said that Yudhoyono highlighted the importance of a rule-based ASEAN with good policy coordination. “That is the fundamental condition we need for the ASEAN community. Peace and stability are the keys,” he said.

Faizasyah acknowledged that Indonesia had been expected to play a bigger role in helping to resolve the issue.

Early this year, Minh expressed his hope that ASEAN would speed up negotiations with China on a code of conduct on the South China Sea.

Disagreement on the South China Sea prevented members from issuing a joint communique after the 2012 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in July, last year.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa emerged as a volunteer troubleshooter with a 36-hour round of shuttle diplomacy, meeting his counterparts in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore, which resulted in the Six-Points on the South China Sea

Minh applauded Marty’s effort to maintain ASEAN’s centrality and unity. “I especially appreciate the continuation by Indonesia in the maintenance of ASEAN and the strengthening of the regional grouping,” he said.

China and Vietnam are involved in row again regarding the Paracel Islands after a report on Sunday said that a Chinese cruise ship that can accommodate almost 2,000 passengers is ready to sail for the Paracels, known in Chinese as Xisha.

“Tourists will eat and sleep on the cruise ships and land on the islands for sightseeing” ahead of Labor Day on May 1, Tan Li, vice governor of China’s southernmost province of Hainan, said, according to Xinhua.

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