ASEAN and China should ‘expeditiously’ conclude the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) to ease tension in the region, Singaporean Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said.

The minister made the statement at the opening ceremony of the 2015 International Maritime Defence Exhibition Asia (IMDEX Asia) on May 19.

According to the minister, once the COC is agreed upon, it will allow all sides to peacefully settle disputes based on internationally accepted norms and legal frameworks.

He said such territorial disputes are among the maritime challenges that can be potential disruptive to maritime trade routes in this part of the world and affect not only Singapore but also global economy. All countries therefore share a collective interest to keep the regional sea lines of communication open and secure, he added.

The Minister of Defence also highlighted two other threats – maritime terrorism and piracy and sea robbery. Citing the successful suppression of piracy and sea robbery in the Malacca Straits, he urged expanded efforts in new hotspots in the East Sea.

To address these challenges, involved nations must continue to engage in dialogues and practical cooperation, such as joint military exercises, to promote stable military relations in the region, he stressed.

Speaking at the event, the United States Vice Chief of naval operations Michelle Howard voiced her concern over China’s recent land reclamation in the East Sea, and called on China to explain its works.

The IMDEX 2015, running through May 21, attracted around 70 delegations of high-ranking delegations from 40 countries.-VNA