Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh declared that issues in the East Sea are a common concern for countries in the region during a speech at the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, on June 30.

Minh stressed that the East Sea has seen complex developments in recent times, citing a spate of territorial claims and cases of ships firing at or ramming into Vietnamese fishing boats in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

He said that those incidents run counter to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).

In the face of such moves, he suggested that ASEAN call on all relevant parties to respect the commitments made in the DOC, UNCLOS and ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles in the East Sea.

According to Minh, regional countries should restrain themselves and never use force, instead settling disputes through peaceful means while continuing to build trust by establishing effective communication channels, such as a hotline for sea-related issues between ASEAN and China. He said all sides should work together to rescue endangered fishermen and aid boats in distress.

During the meeting, he informed the members that Vietnam successfully hosted a workshop in Hanoi on June 19-20 about search and rescue missions within the framework of the DOC. He said in the course of those discussions, many practical recommendations were heard.

Regarding the DOC itself, Minh hailed the recent progress in consultations between ASEAN and China on the declaration’s implementation. He cited the outcomes of ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Political Consultation in April and a meeting of the ASEAN-China Joint Working Group in May as occasions in which positive steps were made.

He emphasised that it is essential for countries to speed up the formulation of the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) to ensure peace, stability, maritime security and safety in the waters.

Accordingly, ASEAN should push China to engage in official negotiations on the COC, especially at a time when the two sides will celebrate the 10 th anniversary of their strategic partnership this year, he said.

The minister also voiced his support for Thailand’s proposal to host the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in August in Hua Hin and for another ASEAN – China joint statement working towards devising the COC.

Regarding ASEAN’s plans beyond 2015, Minh stressed the need to make every effort to meet the deadlines set under the ASEAN Community building agenda. The region should plan to announce the establishment of the new ASEAN Community on December 31, 2015, he said.

The future community will create a unanimous, united and strong ASEAN operating in line with the ASEAN Charter and upholding its central role in multilateral cooperation mechanisms, he declared.-VNA