China and ASEAN agreed to reach an early conclusion on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, as senior officials met Thursday in Beijing for the 21st China-ASEAN Senior Officials' Consultation.
"We agreed to remain committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct [DOC] of Parties in the South China Sea and the early conclusion of a COC through consultations." Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters after the consultation.
His words were echoed by Noppadon Theppitak, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, who chaired the consultation, which ran from Wednesday to Thursday.
"We recognize that the COC was not meant to resolve bilateral disputes, but enhance confidence building between the parties concerned, to help prevent and manage incidents at sea." Noppadon said.
Despite reports of "increasingly tense territorial disputes", Noppadon said that China-ASEAN had "candid, friendly and useful exchange of views" on the South China Sea.
"We re-emphasized the need to exercise utmost self-restraint and avoid activities that could complicate the situation. We saw the need to come up with 'dos and don'ts' in support of this objective." he said, adding that no single issue should dominate the multifaceted ASEAN-China relations.
The China-ASEAN strategic partnership has maintained sound and steady momentum for growth, with bilateral trade exceeding 480 billion U.S. dollars last year and all 10 ASEAN members becoming prospective-founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
"The China-ASEAN strategic partnership is becoming an increasingly important pillar for regional peace, stability, development and prosperity." Liu said.