"The sooner, the better" for COC on South China Sea: Shanmugam






SINGAPORE: Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has reiterated the need for a Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea, saying the sooner it is started the better.

He said this in a live interview with the BBC on Friday morning, covering issues such as the South China Sea claims, US-China relations and ASEAN.

He was asked whether it is possible to have some kind of resolution via ASEAN.

Mr Shanmugam replied that ASEAN has been trying to make it clear that territorial disputes can only be solved by the claimant states themselves.

But the regional grouping can put in place a structure that shows and tells people how they have to structure their conduct with each other. And this is why ASEAN has been pushing for the COC.

Mr Shanmugam said the COC should apply to all countries in the way they interact with each other in the region.

Asked how concerned Asia should be over what's perceived as an increasingly assertive China, Mr Shanmugam said this has to be looked at in context.

He said no leader of China, as well as leaders of many countries, can afford to be seen to be soft on sovereignty.

The real issue is whether they can put in place a modus vivendi to deal with territorial and sovereignty issues.

Mr Shanmugam pointed out that the actual disputes will take a very long time to settle and stressed that the issue is how countries behave so that the disputes do not escalate into clashes, which could be terrible for the region.

- CNA/ir



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"The sooner, the better" for COC on South China Sea: Shanmugam