An aerial view of Yongxing Island, which is part of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, June 19, 2014. [Photo/IC]
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Tuesday for China and ASEAN to tackle external interference as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and step up consultation on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to safeguard peace and stability in the region.
Wang made the remark when participating via video link in the foreign ministers' meeting between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Noting that it is the consensus between China and ASEAN members to agree on the Code of Conduct at an early date, Wang said that the second reading of the draft text of the code is taking place online and has made progress.
China insists on the peaceful settlement of disputes through consultations by the countries directly involved, refrains from unilateral actions that intensify contradictions and aggravate differences, and at the same time deepens pragmatic maritime cooperation with relevant countries, Wang said.
He also noted that China's sovereignty, as well as its rights and interests in the South China Sea, conform with international laws including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China has never made new claims but will stick to its consistent position, he said.
Thanks to the joint efforts of China and ASEAN, the South China Sea has enjoyed a stable situation, and freedom of navigation and overflight is protected in accordance with law, Wang said.
He called on relevant countries to stay vigilant to actions by certain countries outside the region to openly intervene in territorial and maritime disputes in the region, sow discord between China and ASEAN members, and send a large number of vessels to the region.
They have become the biggest troublemakers, he said, adding that the South China Sea should not be turned into an arena for major countries, and they are not allowed to disrupt peace and stability in the region.
During the meeting, foreign ministers from ASEAN members said that they would like to enhance mutual trust and avoid increasing tensions in the South China Sea.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. The ministers said they would like to hold a conference with China to commemorate the anniversary.
ASEAN will continue to cooperate with China in fighting the pandemic and promoting development, they said.
According to Wang, China has provided over 190 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as well as a huge amount of anti-pandemic supplies to ASEAN members.
China and ASEAN have launched a cooperation initiative on public health management, and have been improving the China-ASEAN Vaccine Friend Cooperation platform in order to share information and strengthen communication, he said.
China is willing to work with ASEAN members to oppose the politicization of the pandemic and ensure the smooth and healthy development of international anti-pandemic cooperation, he added.
Despite the pandemic, the trade volume between China and ASEAN exceeded $410 billion in the first half of this year, a year-on-year increase of 38.2 percent, and bilateral mutual investment has exceeded $310 billion, Wang noted. The bloc continues to be China's largest trading partner.