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Spratlys > News > English News > April 2004 

Category: @News  @China


The Code of conduct is a set of conventional principles and expectations that are considered binding on any person who is a member of a particular group.

This code can also apply to countries. An example is the one signed by all ten member states of the Association of South East Asian nations over claims to the disputed Spratly Islands.

Located in the South China Sea, the Spratlys straddle vital shipping lanes and fishing grounds, and are believed to contain vast oil and gas reserves.

Six countries, Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, claim sovereignty over all or parts of the Islands.

All the claimants, except for Brunei, have military personnel stationed in the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls.

In the past, squabbling over the islands has erupted into violence. The most serious incident occurred in 1988 when Chinese and Vietnamese naval forces clashed at Johnson Reef, leaving 78 Vietnamese navy personnel dead.

The communist neighbours clashed again in the Spratlys in 1992, and since then, there have been numerous other incidents between claimants.

The latest controversy is over boat tours arranged by the Vietnamese government to Hanoi's military outposts in the Spratly Islands, off Vietnam's southeastern coast.

It has made the other claimants to the Spratlys chain uncomfortable, and some member nations have responded saying Vietnam should follow the "code of conduct" signed by all parties in 2002, which requires countries to refrain from actions that could break the fragile peace in the South China Sea.

Claimant countries are not supposed to do things to disturb the status quo. Its part of a consensus among Southeast Asian nations to keep the status quo on the Spratlys and avoid heightening tensions.

Its natural for governments to be concerned with the latest development, because Vietnam as a signatory to the code of conduct was among the countries that pushed for the code governing the Spratlys.

Lets hope dialogue and consultation rather than confrontation will prevail.

If ASEAN leaders can do this in a peaceful and collaborative manner then peace can be maintained in the Spratly Islands.

Source: http://rsi.com.sg/english/wordpower/view/20040422072917/1/.html