ASEAN chief suggests Japan, China use dispute settlement mechanism

JAKARTA, Dec. 12 (PNA/Kyodo) — ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh has suggested that China and Japan apply parts of a dispute settlement mechanism, currently used by the 10-member grouping to peacefully settle territorial disputes with China over rival claims to islands in the South China Sea, in dealing with their dispute in the East China Sea.

Tension heightened in the East China Sea after China announced on Nov. 23 that it had set up a controversial air defense identification zone in the sea, overlapping those of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and covering the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, known in China as Diaoyu.

In an interview with Kyodo News early this week, Minh said the tension between China and Japan is only one among some maritime disputes in the region.

“We see similarities in those maritime disputes in the region, so (the mechanisms) can be, I think, applied to other disputes in this region,” the ASEAN chief said.

He referred to ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea issued last year by the bloc’s foreign ministers in Phnom Penh.

The six principles include the implementation of the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” that ASEAN and China signed in 2002, the need to work out a legally binding regional code of conduct on the South China Sea, the respect of international laws, including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, self-restraint and non-use of force and peaceful resolution of South China Sea disputes.

According to Minh, China and Japan are important partners of ASEAN and have important roles to play to maintain regional peace and stability.

Judging from the overall relations between China and Japan, he expressed belief that the dispute between the two is “not that bad.”

Asked about his concerns over possible frictions in the East China Sea, Minh did not directly give any answer, but quoted a former Chinese ambassador to the United Nations as saying over the weekend that it is not worth it for China to go to war with Japan over “those two tiny rocks.”

“I’m confident that they are able to solve all their differences and resolve this issue in accordance with those principles, which I mentioned are not only applied to the South China Sea issue but also to similar maritime disputes in the region,” Minh said.

China and Japan, he stressed, should take into account the larger interests of the region to ensure peace, stability and prosperity.

Evaluating the relationship between ASEAN and Japan in the past 40 years, Minh said the strong mutual solidarity between the two is “well signified throughout the years.”

“The relationship has matured and cooperation…has broadened and deepened,” he said.

“Japan has been a consistent supporter of ASEAN, not only in the maintenance of regional peace, stability and security, but also in the process of ASEAN integration, especially in the process of community building,” he added.

He reiterated that Japan’s support to realize the ASEAN Community by Dec. 31, 2015, is important.

“Since community building is an evolving project,” he said, “Japan should consider aligning its future support to ASEAN with the ASEAN Community’s post-2015 vision.

“The future of ASEAN-Japan cooperation should also be dynamic, flexible and responsive so that both sides will be able to address any new and emerging challenges that the region might face,” he added. (PNA/Kyodo)