Saifuddin: Code of Conduct will guide talks with China over South China Sea dispute

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad arrives for the 34th Asean Summit in Bangkok June 20, 2019. — Bernama pic
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad arrives for the 34th Asean Summit in Bangkok June 20, 2019. — Bernama pic

BANGKOK, June 22 — Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said today Malaysia is seeking to address the issue of the South China Sea during the 34th Asean Summit by making a stand that negotiations regarding the dispute should be within the context of the Code Of Conduct (CoC) draft that will be debated at the end of this year.

Saifuddin said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will discuss the South China Sea dispute when he brings up matters pertaining to security issues during the regional grouping today and tomorrow.

“It is expected that Dr Mahathir will raise the issue of security developments and also on the position of China in the South China Sea. Our stand is that all negotiations with China should be in the context of Code of Conduct which will be debated end of this year... this (negotiation) has to be done by Asean as a group with China.

“We will stress on our stand that it should be a group effort as there have been attempts by one or two Asean countries to negotiate individually with China,” he said during a brief interview session with the Malaysian media today.

Since mid-last-year Malaysia has been playing an active role in the process of drawing up a CoC for regional states to avoid accidents, miscalculations and aggression in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Saifuddin said Dr Mahathir fully supports Thailand’s theme this year which is “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability” where the focus is on building a people-centered Asean community.

Saifuddin said when Dr Mahathir attends the Plenary Session he will state his support for this year’s theme which he has always been passionate about.

“The prime minister is also surely expected to raise the issue of Asean economy and how trade between Asean countries can be increased.

“Dr Mahathir is expected to make one or two suggestions on how Asean economy can be strengthened and how to improve cooperation and bilateral ties between Asean countries,” he added.

Dr Mahathir arrived on Thursday for the summit accompanied by his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Ali, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Ignatius Darrel Leiking and Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali as well as officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, Wisma Putra, Ministry of International Trade and Industry and Ministry of Economic Affairs (MEA).

The summit will provide leaders of the Asean member states the opportunity to exchange views on the future direction of Asean and its community-building process, the implementation of the Asean Community Vision 2025 as well as to discuss important regional and international issues.

Dr Mahathir would also participate in the 13th Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) summit and the 12th Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) summit that would be held tomorrow.