The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China are scheduled to start official talks in September in China to conclude a code of conduct covering the South China Sea, where enmity between China and some ASEAN countries is becoming fierce over long-standing territorial disputes. Although the talks are unlikely to go smoothly, both sides should persevere toward an agreement that reduces tensions.
The uphill battle faced by ASEAN negotiators is revealed by recent statements made by Chinese officials. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was visiting Bangkok to attend a China-ASEAN forum to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership, on Aug. 2 said that territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved through bilateral talks. Three days later, he said the attitude harbored by some ASEAN countries that seek an early agreement on the code of conduct does not seem realistic or serious. He stressed the importance of holding detailed discussions so that consensus could be reached among all the countries concerned.