The Difference Between China and Indonesia s Responses to Press Inquiries on the COC
1. What have Indonesia and China said?

On March 10th 2023, Director-General for ASEAN Cooperation at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry Sidharto R. Suryodipuro talked to the press about the results of the 38th Meeting of the ASEAN-China Joint Working Group on the Implementation of the DOC (JWG-DOC) in Jakarta (Indonesia). He noted that COC talks - being resumed on March 8th - have been making progress, and all related parties are commited in putting negotiations forward. Mr.  Sidharto R. Suryodipuro said negotiating countries do not want the agreement to “just simply be a document”. Thus, the COC has to be “effective, substantive and actionable”.

On March 14th 2023, in a regular press conference, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that China and ASEAN countries continued to advance the consultation on the text of the COC and had in-depth exchanges on the implementation of the DOC and practical maritime cooperation. The two sides agreed to carry out multiple projects in such fields as marine scientific research, environmental protection and search and rescue operation at sea, step up dialogue and communication, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and jointly uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea. The parties have also reached an agreement on the working plan for this year and agreed to hold multiple rounds of the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC(SOM-DOC) and JWG-DOC meeting within this year and bring about greater progress in the COC consultation.

2. Comparing the two responses mentioned above shows differences in ASEAN and China’s viewpoints, or at least in what both sides want to emphasize in public:

Sidharto R. Suryodipuro’s reflects ASEAN’s viewpoint, affirming that COC “has to be effective, substantive and actionable”, in which Indonesia emphasizes “actionable”. COC not only promotes maritime cooperation mentioned in Article 6 of the DOC but also prevents aggressive acts that complicate the situation in the South China Sea (which are stated in Article 5 of the DOC and UNCLOS).

Meanwhile, Wang Wenbin's response ignored the principles to control parties’ behaviors, only emphasizing cooperation in the fields mentioned in Article 6 of the DOC, such as marine scientific research, environmental protection and search and rescue operation at sea (Mr. Wang did not even mention cooperation on the safety of navigation and communication at sea).

Indonesia and ASEAN countries need high solidarity and close cooperation to negotiate an “effective, substantive and actionable” COC, best ensuring national interests on the basis of international law and the UNCLOS.


The post was originally published here.  

Translated by Phuong Thao

Revised by HD, Viet Ha