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Excerpt of Lao delegation leader's letter to Venezuela's foreign minister

Excerpt from a letter by Mr Kham-Inh Khitchadeth, the ministerial leader of the Lao delegation, to Venezuela's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Delcy Rodriguez Gomez, regarding Asean's unhappiness that the Non-Aligned Movement's (NAM) Final Outcome Document did not reflect current developments in the region with regard to the South China Sea. Mr Kham-Inh said Asean wanted to put its reservations on record and to incorporate these as an annex to the NAM document:

"The heads of state or government reiterated the call to solve all sovereignty and territorial disputes in the South China Sea by peaceful means, without resorting to force and/or the threat to use force, in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Charter of the United Nations.

In this context, they urged all parties to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety to build, maintain and enhance mutual trust and confidence, to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and to work expeditiously for the early adoption of an effective Code of Conduct, which would help to promote international peace and stability in the region, with a view to creating a positive climate for the eventual resolution of all contentious issues, as mentioned in paragraph 2 of the Joint Communique of the 49th Asean Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, dated July 24, 2016.

They expressed their hope that all parties concerned would refrain from any actions that may undermine peace, stability, trust and confidence in the region. The heads of state or government shared serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments in the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers/leaders on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, including the increased presence of military assets and the possibility of further militarisation of outposts in the South China Sea, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.

They emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities, including land reclamation, that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.

They reaffirmed the importance of, and their shared commitment to, maintaining peace, security, stability, the freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea, as provided for by the universally recognised principles of international law.

To this end, they welcomed the adoption of the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in July 2011 in Bali and the Joint Statement of the 15th Asean-China Summit on the 10th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in November 2012 in Phnom Penh.

The heads of state or government also welcomed the Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministers of Asean Member States and China on the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea on July 25, 2016, in Vientiane. They further welcomed the positive contribution of the consultations at Asean-China dialogues, and the regular exchange of views at relevant Asean-led fora, and encouraged their continuance.

The heads of state or government welcomed the progress made on some of the Early Harvest Measures, which includes adopting a 24-hour MFA-to-MFA hotline for maritime emergencies. They noted the Asean-China 25th Anniversary Commemorative Summit on Sept 7, 2016, in Vientiane, the 17th Joint Working Group on the implementation of the DOC on June 8, 2016, and the 12th Senior Official's Meeting on the implementation of the DOC on June 9, 2016, in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2016, with the headline 'Excerpt of Lao delegation leader's letter to Venezuela's foreign minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe