The East Sea dispute remains one of the most important focuses of the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2013, Brunei Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Mohamed Bolkiah said at a meeting of the ten-nation bloc on Thursday.
Other areas of focus include national security and defense, economic and social cooperation, the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) quoted Bolkiah as saying.
Completing a Code of Conduct for Parties in the South China Sea (COC) is the prime target of the ASEAN's 2013 chair country Brunei and it will prioritize solving disputes through dialogue while maintaining security and stability and consulting with other countries on the issue, VNA reported.
Senior officials from the ten ASEAN member nations gathered in Banda Seri Begawan on April 11 for meetings to prepare for the 22nd ASEAN Summit, to be held from April 24-25.
The meetings include ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat, the 9th ASEAN Political and Security Community Council (APSC) and the 12th ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC).
Speaking to the media after the meetings, Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa said the most significant outcome of the meetings was consensus on dialogue with China to agree on the COC.
He said issues of common interest will be addressed at the coming senior officials' meeting to prepare for the 23rd ASEAN Summit, East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
China has been condemned widely for its provocative actions in the East Sea, known internationally as South China Sea, where it illegally claims sovereignty over 80 percent of the area. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are claimants to several areas in the East Sea, which carries key international shipping lines and is rich in fish, mineral resources and oil and gas.
A press release issued by the Bruneian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade following the Thursday meetings said senior officials from ASEAN member nations have discussed the progress made since the 21st ASEAN Summit in November 2012, including political and security cooperation, the widening acceptance of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, ongoing work on the publication of the ASEAN Security Outlook, and received reports from various ASEAN bodies for submission to the ASEAN leaders.
The foreign ministers reiterated the Statement on the Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea, and emphasized the need to maintain momentum on dialogue and consultations following the positive outcome of the 19th ASEAN-China Senior Officials Consultations.
The ministers tasked Senior Officials to work actively with China on the way forward to achieve early consensus on the Code of Conduct, the press release said.