As far as the territorial dispute in the South China Sea goes, it seems that China is winning over the support of the entire ASEAN membership.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his counterparts from 10 ASEAN members during the recent 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting recently. They have agreed that maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea helps with fundamental interests of all ASEAN member states, including China.
They have also reaffirmed that all member states will be guided by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea document as well as the 1982 United Nationals Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.
Following the meeting, China and the other ASEAN member states issued a joint statement recalled from 2012 during the 15th ASEAN-China Summit. It states that both jurisdictional and territorial disputes shall be resolved through “peaceful means” and without the use of any threat or force.
At the same time, the statement insists there will “respect for and commitment” when it comes to freedom of navigation and overflight around the South China Sea.
On the other hand, all concerned parties have agreed that they will “exercise self-restraint” when it comes to undergoing activities that can trigger or escalate dispute between countries. It was also agreed that all member states will refrain from undertaking any action in presently uninhabited reefs, islands, cays shoals and other features.
The ASEAN members and China have agreed to work on cooperative activities involving marine scientific research, navigation safety, environmental protection, and combating transnational crimes while at sea. ASEAN member states include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Prior to the ASEAN meeting, China dismissed the ruling of the Arbitration Court at The Hague regarding its territorial dispute along the South China Sea with the Philippines. According to state news agency Xinhua, China said the said the ruling is “null and void with no binding force.”