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Background Briefing: ASEAN’s Code of Conduct: Acceptable to China? Carlyle A. Thayer July 11, 2012

[client name deleted] With respect to the copy of ASEAN’s Code of Conduct, would you say it is still watered down enough not to seriously worry China? ANSWSER: From my reading of ASEAN’s Code of Conduct, ASEAN is trying to commit China to a dispute settlement mechanism. But it is left to be negotiated: "develop modalities and arrangements for the promotion of settlement by peaceful means of disputes..." This is tightened up by the call to "establish an appropriate mechanism to monitor the implementation of the COC” supported by ASEAN SOM. The draft I consulted calls for establishing "a mechanism for settling disputes relating to the interpretation and application of the Code of Conduct." I would say the ASEAN COC adds new elements, a product of consensus building in ASEAN. If China signs on the ASEAN COC it will be committed to working out a dispute settlement mechanism and a review of progress. The new draft offers an ASEAN solution - through the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation that establishes an ASEAN High Council to settle disputes - and a solution under international law, namely UNCLOS. I am not sure watered down quite captures the dynamics. The draft abandons one of Manila's pet themes - to segregate disputed areas from areas that are not disputed. There is a long way to go. If ASEAN -China discussions are to begin in September this process doesn't give much time to the next round of ASEAN and related summits.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “ASEAN’s Code of Conduct: Acceptable to China?,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, July 11, 2012.