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Thayer Consultancy

ABN # 65 648 097 123

Background Briefing: ASEANs Code of Conduct: China Uninvited Guest at Table Carlyle A. Thayer April 4, 2012

[client name deleted] The Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand want ASEAN members to discuss the Code of ConductintheSouthChinaSeafirstandestablishaunitedfrontbeforetalkingwiththe Chinese. However, China wants to be involved in the first place and several ASEAN memberssupportChina'sposition.WhatdoyouthinkASEANingeneralandVietnamin particularshoulddo?AndhowcouldASEANestablishaunitedfrontwhenitisdivided? ANSWER: Last November ASEAN Senior Officials began working on a draft Code of Conduct. Indonesia's Foreign Minister made clear that ASEAN should start the ball rollingfirstandtheninvolveChinaatalaterstage.TheChair'sfinalstatementatthe20th ASENSummitcontainedtwoparagraphsundertheheadingoftheSouthChinaSea.No mention was made of a Code of Conduct. The first paragraph only repeated what has been said before ASEAN will intensify its efforts to implement the DOC. The second paragraph contained this sentence "We also looked forward to the holding of the 5th ASEANChina Senior Officials on DOC and the 8th Meeting of the ASEANChina Joint WorkingGroup."ItseemslikelythatChinawillbebroughtintotheprocessearlierthan expected. Last November Indonesia's foreign minister stated that ASEAN would meet first and draw up a draft COC and then approach China. China has shown up as an uninvitedguestexpectingaseatatthetable.VietnamandthePhilippinesshouldinsist thatconsensusonthispointshouldnotbechanged. VietnamandthePhilippineshavegottostandfirmandinsistthatASEANdraftaCodeof Conduct.Theyneedtoplaydiplomatichardballandmakeitcleartheywillnotsupport aweakandwatereddownCOCthatisnothingmorethanthe'DOCPlus'inotherwords anothernonbindingpoliticalstatementdresseduptolooklikeprogress. The central issue is how to curb Chinese civilian maritime agencies from causing incidentsindisputedwaters.IftheCOCdoesnotaddressthisissueitwillnotbeworth the paper it is written on. The 2002 DOC is a nonbinding political statement. In 2004 bothChinaandASEANagreedthatajointworkinggroupshouldmeettwiceayear.Over the next seven years only seven meetings were held. The DOC listed five cooperative

activitiesnonewascarriedout.TheGuidelinestoImplementtheDOChasonlyagreed to hold workshops and set up expert working groups on four of the five cooperative activities. No expert working group was set up on safety of navigation and communicationatseabecauseChinawouldnotagree.