They expressed their concerns about land reclamations, activities, serious incidents in the area, including damage to the marine environment, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions, and may undermine peace, security, and stability in the region.
They underlined the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation.
They further reaffirmed the need to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Ministers emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the waters.
They reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea and recognised the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity. They underscored the necessity of the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety.
The ministers warmly welcomed the continuously improving cooperation between ASEAN and China, and were encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the waters (COC) consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, within a mutually-agreed timeline.
They welcomed the resumption of textual negotiations on the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text (SDNT), which has resulted in provisional agreement on the Preamble section after delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They emphasised the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the COC negotiations, and thus welcomed practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risk of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation.
The ministers stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance trust amongst parties, while at the same time upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.