Conduct code push for South China Sea

Lauren Farrow, AAP Southeast Asia Correspondent
Indonesia says it wants an earlier resolution to a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Indonesia is pushing for the implementation of a code of conduct in the South China Sea to be finished earlier than China's timetable, citing increasing tensions in the region.

It's been more than a decade since the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) first raised the hope of implementing a code that would govern behaviour in the hotly contested waters.

But a code of conduct (COC) remains elusive.

While China has signalled it wants the agreement to be finished by early next year, spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Minister Arrmanatha Nasir said they want the matter settled as soon as possible.

"Indonesia's commitment to finish the COC is very clear and Indonesia has been the one, or I can say the main country in ASEAN, who has continued to push for settlement of the COC," he told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday.

"We see that it's becoming very important lately with the increasing tensions in South China Sea."

It is not the first time such a call has been made, with ASEAN repeatedly expressing hopes for the COC to be completed.

In a speech in Jakarta last year, ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh said it was of "grave concern" that "massive land reclamation and construction activities" were taking place in the waters while the COC process was ongoing and without any definite timeline.

This, he said was upsetting the balance of power in the region.

"The COC should be a comprehensive and legally binding instrument to govern the conduct and behaviour in the South China Sea with a view to preventing, managing and resolving incidents, and helping create a favourable environment for a comprehensive and durable settlement of disputes in the South China Sea," he said then.

A statement from ASEAN back in 2005 noted: "we look forward to the eventual conclusion of a regional code of conduct in the South China Sea".

ASEAN copped criticism when it released a joint statement on the South China Sea just weeks ago, in which it failed to mention the landmark ruling by the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration which dismissed China's "historical rights" to large swathes of the waters.

China has repeatedly dismissed the ruling.