Kerry Resolution: Senators Urge ASEAN to Develop Binding Code of Conduct

[Editors Note: Per the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Press Release yesterday following ASEAN’s failure to release a joint communique last week, which you can read about on cogitASIA here, Senator John Kerry introduced a resolution with bi-partisan support.]

The Kerry Resolution was at its core directed at ASEAN & China by, “Reaffirming America’s support for the 2002 declaration of conduct of parties in the South China Sea and urging ASEAN and China to make progress in negotiating a legally-binding code of conduct.” Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Jim Webb (R-VA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and John McCain (R-AZ) joined Kerry as original cosponsors of the resolution. Kerry explained the Senate’s position as follows:

“Given recent incidents and what’s at stake, America and the international community have a shared interest in maintaining the peace, stability, safety, and freedom of commerce and navigation of the South China Sea,” said Sen. Kerry. “This resolution makes it clear that the support of the Senate and the United States is fully behind our friends and partners in the region.  We stand ready to assist as ASEAN works to develop a legally-binding code of conduct with China and resolves outstanding territorial and jurisdictional issues in a peaceful, multilateral diplomatic setting.”

The full text of the Resolution is below:

112TH CONGRESS

2D SESSION

S. RES. 524

Reaffirming the strong support of the United States for the 2002 declaration of conduct of parties in the South China Sea among the member states of ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China, and for other purposes.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

JULY XX, 2012

Mr. KERRY (for himself, Mr. LUGAR, Mr. WEBB, Mr. INHOFE, and Mr. LIEBERMAN) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

RESOLUTION

Reaffirming the strong support of the United States for the 2002 declaration of conduct of parties in the South China Sea among the member states of ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China, and for other purposes.

Whereas the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plays a key role in strengthening and contributing to peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region;

Whereas the vision of the ASEAN Leaders in their goals set out in the ASEAN Charter to integrate ASEAN economically, politically, and culturally furthers regional peace, stability, and prosperity;

Whereas the United States Government recognizes the importance of a strong, cohesive, and integrated ASEAN as a foundation for effective regional frameworks to promote peace and security and economic growth and to ensure that the Asia-Pacific community develops according to rules and norms agreed upon by all of its members;

Whereas the United States is enhancing political, security and economic cooperation in Southeast Asia through ASEAN, and seeks to continue to enhance its role in partnership with ASEAN and others in the region in addressing transnational issues ranging from climate change to maritime security;

Whereas the United States Government welcomes the development of a peaceful and prosperous China which respects international norms, international laws, international institutions, and international rules, and enhances security and peace, and seeks to advance a “cooperative partnership” between the United States and China;

Whereas ASEAN plays an important role, in partnership with others in the regional and international community, in addressing maritime security issues in the Asia-Pacific region and into the Indian Ocean, including open access to the maritime commons of Asia;

Whereas the South China Sea is a vital part of the maritime commons of Asia, including critical sea lanes of communication and commerce between the Pacific and Indian oceans;

Whereas, in the declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea, the governments of the member states of ASEAN and the Government of the People’s Republic of China have affirmed “that the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea would further promote peace and stability in the region” and have agreed to work towards the attainment of a code of conduct;

Whereas, pending the peaceful settlement of territorial and jurisdictional disputes, the member states of ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China have committed to “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and stability, including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner”;

Whereas, pending the peaceful settlement of territorial and jurisdictional disputes, the member states of ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China affirmed their commitment “to the freedom of navigation in and overflight of the South China Sea provided for by the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea”; and

Whereas, although not a party to these disputes, the United States has national interests in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, and unimpeded lawful commerce: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) reaffirms the strong support of the United States for the 2002 declaration of conduct of parties in the South China Sea among the member states of ASEAN and the People’s Republic of China;

(2) supports the member states of ASEAN, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China, as they seek to adopt a legally-binding code of conduct of parties in the South China Sea, and urges all countries to substantively support ASEAN in its efforts in this regard;

(3) strongly urges that, pending adoption of a code of conduct, all parties, consistent with commitments under the declaration of conduct, “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and stability, including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner”;

(4) supports a collaborative diplomatic process by all claimants for resolving outstanding territorial and jurisdictional disputes, allowing parties to peacefully settle claims and disputes using international law;

(5) reaffirms the United States commitment—

(A) to assist the nations of Southeast Asia to remain strong and independent;

(B) to help ensure each nation enjoys peace and stability;

(C) to broaden and deepen economic, political, diplomatic, security, social, and cultural partnership with ASEAN and its member states; and

(D) to promote the institutions of emerging regional architecture and prosperity; and

(6) supports enhanced operations by the United States armed forces in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea, including in partnership with the armed forces of others countries in the region, in support of freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, including the peaceful resolution of issues of sovereignty, and unimpeded lawful commerce.