Last update 7/9/2011 2:21:00 PM (GMT+7)

Indonesia ‘can play role’ in East Sea dispute
VietNamNet Bridge -  Indonesia should use regional forums and its leadership position in ASEAN to help relieve tensions between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors over the East Sea territorial disputes, an expert says.

ASEAN expert Dewi Fortuna Anwar highlighted several ideas that could be used to help defuse the Spratly Islands conflict.

The main objective, she said, was that major parties not resort to resolving the disputes through threats or use of force. All sides should promote dialogue and cooperation, she said.

“First, all parties must refrain from deploying military forces to enforce their claims. Second, all involved ASEAN parties should speed up the agreement on the guidelines and documents concerning the East Sea and start working on making a more binding code of conduct [COC],” Dewi said.

China and ASEAN signed a Declaration of Code of Conduct on East Sea in 2002, which bans constructing on unoccupied elements. However, Philippine officials recently claimed that China has breached the code by conducting activities in an area that was supposed to remain untouched.

Without a proper binding agreement, it is very difficult to resolve the heated tension between these ASEAN countries. “With China claiming the entire region, the dispute is more likely to continue. All countries feel that the territory is theirs,” Dewi said.

When asked what role Indonesia should play, Habibie Center executive director Rahimah Abdulrahim said, “Indonesia should not add fuel to the fire. It should maintain objective in the conflict.”

However, a more detailed analysis should be designed for the conflicting parties, regarding the East Sea, according to Dewi.

“ASEAN should carry out or revive a discussion or workshop on the East Sea as part of Confidence Building Measures [CBM] and identify areas for cooperation.

“Lastly, sovereignty disputes should be shelved and an attempt for new modality for joined development and management of East Sea should be further investigated,” she said.

Indonesia, as the chair of ASEAN, should actively assist in preventing the dispute from erupting by conducting a multilateral forum, experts suggested.

They said the forum should include all of the disputing countries, and reach a settlement so that all parties equally benefitted.

“Indonesia should try encouraging China to talk multilaterally not bilaterally, so that confidence building measures can be promoted and misunderstandings can be prevented,” Dewi said.

The Jakarta Post