The 8th Experts Meeting on Confidence Building Measures in the South China Sea

21-22 August, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), in collaboration with the China Institute if International Studies (CIIS) conducted the 8th Experts Meeting on Confidence Building in the South China Sea in the CIIS premises recently. HD has been conducting these meetings since 2015 with the aim of developing Common Operating Principles (COP) for Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies (MLEA) and Fishing Vessels operating in the South China Sea. The COPs and accompanying Guidelines were developed during 7 Expert’s meetings and four MLEA Study Groups in 2016/2017 by Experts from China, Malaysia Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam based on historical cases of interaction and perceived operational difficulties in and around the South China Sea.

Fig 1: Ms Karen Jacques explaining on the series of meetings held by HD on the COP

The opening remarks for the meeting was delivered by Mr Yang Yi, Secretary General of CIIS, followed by Mr Michael Vatikiotis, Asia Regional Director for HD. In their remarks, they expressed a hope to finalise the COPs and Guidelines that has been discussed for the last 4 years.  Mr Michael also took the opportunity to thank Malaysia, namely MIMA for conducting the simulation workshop on the CUES in Cyberjaya in 2017 and the recent Track 1 Forum held in Kuala Lumpur on the COP by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Security Council.

Fig 2 : Participants of the 8th Expert Meeting

24 participants from China, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia attended the 8th Experts Meeting and interacted actively on the COP and the Guidelines therein. The COPs were jointly drafted in 2016 and in 2017 discussions began around a set of Guidelines that were developed to elaborate on how the COPs would be applied in practice. The COPs are basically a set of principles namely Transparency and Communication. Do No Harm and finally, Due Regards to Good Order At Sea aimed to reduce miscalculation and increase predictability during encounters at sea involving MLEA and fishing vessels.

Fig 3: Capt. Martin from MIMA, Mr Hanis Zaini from the National Security Council, Mr Raiz Razally, Mr Michael from HD, Mr Riaz Abd. Razak, Capt. Ahmad Faridi and Cdr. Yousry from MMEA.

The Malaysian Delegation was represented by Capt. Martin A. SEBASTIAN RMN (R), Senior Fellow from MIMA, Capt. (Maritime) Ahmad Faridi and Cdr. Yousry Yaali from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and Mr Hanis Zaini from the National Security Council. Counsellors from the Malaysian Embassy in China, Mr Raiz Razally and Mr Riaz Abd. Razak joined meeting as well.   

Fig 4 : Country Workgroup Discussion

The 8th Meeting provided better insights to move forward with the COP and Guidelines. However it should be noted that national and domestic laws shall supersede the instructions for the COPs therein. Th specific MLEA to which the COPs may be applied is left to the discretion of the respective governments involved as maritime law enforcement functions are shared across multiple agencies in a number of countries.

Fig 5: Mr Yang Yi from CIIS moderating the Lessons Learnt session.

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