Kuala Lumpur:India today called for the early conclusion of a code of conduct by consensus for the strategic South China Sea as defence ministers of Asia-Pacific met here amid rising assertiveness by China in the disputed waters.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar hoped that all parties to the disputes in the South China Sea region will abide by the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and ensure its effective implementation and work together to ensure a peaceful resolution of disputes.
Addressing the 3rd ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM-plus) here, Parrikar said the situation in the South China Sea and recent developments there have attracted interest and concern.
“This is natural since freedom of navigation in international waters, the right of passage and overflight, unimpeded commerce and access to resources in accordance with recognised principles of international law including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, are of concern to all of us,” he said in his address.
He added that India hoped that the Code of Conduct on the SCS would be concluded at an early date by consensus.
Parrikar stressed that maritime security is a common challenge. “The seas and oceans in our region are critical enablers of our prosperity,” he said.
Defence ministers from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met here for the annual meeting with regional partners, including the United States and China.
China claims sovereignty on almost all of the South China Sea which is firmly opposed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The five countries are backed by US in staking their claims countering that of China.
Beijing considers any criticism of its disputed claims and the island-building campaign as a challenge to its sovereignty.
Sino-US friction over the issue has spiked since last week, when the US Navy’s guided missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of at least one of the land formations in the disputed Spratly Islands.
Meanwhile, Parrikar said another matter of concern is the persistent threat of terrorism and radicalism.
“There can be no justification for acts of terrorism and we have to work resolutely to choke off recruitments, funding and arms for terrorists,” the Minister said as he commended Malaysia’s initiative on Global Movement of Moderates and other efforts to combat radicalisation. .