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The 19th China-ASEAN Summit Issues Joint Statement on the Application of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea in the South China Sea
2016/09/08

On September 7, 2016 local time, at the 19th China-ASEAN Summit held in Vientiane, Laos, leaders from China and ASEAN member states deliberated and adopted a Joint Statement on the Application of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea. As one of the important outcome documents of the summit, the Joint Statement provides clear guidelines for the emergency response and operating specifications of unplanned encounters by naval ships and naval aircrafts of China and ASEAN members in the South China Sea.

In April, 2014, the 14th Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) organized by Chinese Navy was held in Qingdao, China. Navy leaders from over 20 countries in the Western Pacific region attended the WPNS. At the symposium, all member states unanimously passed the CUES. The CUES, as a standardized protocol, aims to provide maneuvering examples and instructions for unplanned encounters at sea of naval ships and aircrafts of all member states, so as to prevent maritime risks and reduce the possibility of maritime emergencies. Not legally binding and without identifying specific applicable waters, the CUES is an open system of subject-oriented rules.

In July, 2015, the 9th Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) was held in Tianjin, China. At the meeting, China proposed that before the final ratification of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, all parties could negotiate to establish the Preventive Measures on Managing Risks at Sea, which was unanimously accepted by all ASEAN countries. Afterwards, China and ASEAN countries gradually specified their intentions to apply the CUES in the South China Sea. In August, 2016, the 13th Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC was held in Manzhouli, China. After several rounds of preliminary consultations, China and ASEAN countries reached agreement on the draft of the Joint Statement and decided to submit it to the 19th China-ASEAN Summit for issuance.

Among all ASEAN countries, both Laos and Myanmar are not member states of the WPNS. However, considering regional peace and stability as well as the integrity of the 11 sides of China and ASEAN countries, Laos and Myanmar are willing to apply the CUES in the South China Sea.

The Joint Statement reached by China and ASEAN countries is one of the important achievements made by regional countries through united efforts in safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea. It fully demonstrates the firm determination and strong will of regional countries to continue to make joint efforts to improve rules, manage and control differences, prevent risks and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. The statement has set a good example for risk management and control as well as stability maintenance in relevant waters of the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

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