Editions : April-June 2012


Efforts to develop cooperation for regional security, dispute settlement and conflict management and development in the South China Sea have so far involved formal approaches by ASEAN, informal approaches by academic institutions and informal, unofficial approaches by some South China Sea officials in their personal capacities. The formal approach has resulted in the Declara¬tion of Conduct (DOC) by the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN and China in 2002, as well as by China and the Philippines (1995), and the Philippines and Vietnam (1996) in formulating confidence-building measures, a code of conduct among them. The informal approach has been initiated by Indonesia through the Workshop Process on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea since 1990. 

It should be noted, however, that while the formal approach excluded Taiwan but included Myanmar as an ASEAN member (even though it is not located in the South China Sea), the second informal approach includes Taiwan as an “entity” in the issue, even though it has no diplomatic relations with nations located around the South China Sea. The Indonesian informal workshops on the South China Sea were not intended to solve territorial disputes among the various claimants, but aimed to achieve three things: devise cooperative programs in which all participants can take part; promote dialogue among the directly interested parties so they can find solutions to their problems, including territorial disputes; and develop the confidence-building process so that everyone will feel comfortable with one another.

Since the beginning, the South China Sea Workshop (SCSW) process formulated and agreed upon some basic principles for managing potential conflicts. The 2nd Workshop in Bandung in July 1991 recommended six points to the relevant governments, which later on became elements for various declarations, or the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea:

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