Senior officials from China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations announced on Thursday in Guiyang, Southwest China's Guizhou province, that the two sides have completed the first draft of a framework for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
This landmark document reflects their shared determination to build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, cooperation and friendship.
Since last year, tensions over the South China Sea disputes have abated remarkably thanks to the restraint and diplomatic efforts of the parties concerned. This has helped usher in a cordial atmosphere for talks on a Code of Conduct, thus paving the way for full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea agreed in 2002.
It is heartening to see the South China Sea issue has been brought back onto the right track of dialogue and consultation after last year's turbulence. One important consensus has been that interference by outside forces will not bring peace and stability, but instead only creates uncertainties and undermines the interests of both China and the ASEAN member states.
The latest breakthrough was made during the 14th Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC between China and ASEAN.
The 23rd Senior Officials Consultations will convene in Guiyang on Friday, and the first bilateral consultation between China and the Philippines on the South China Sea is also scheduled for Friday in Guiyang.
These interactions and exchanges between China and members of the regional bloc, conducted just a few days after Beijing hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, prove that ASEAN is a top priority in China's good-neighborly diplomacy.
China has always supported ASEAN taking center stage in regional integration and playing a bigger role in international affairs. It has vowed to throw its weight behind ASEAN's commitment to build an economic community and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025.
In fact, ASEAN's development strategy can dovetail with China's Belt and Road Initiative in many ways. ASEAN countries are situated where the land and maritime Silk Roads converge, and China sees ASEAN as an important partner in promoting the initiative, which will create huge development opportunities for ASEAN countries to seize.
The China-ASEAN relationship has maintained a healthy trend in recent years and is surging ahead along a fast track of development. The convergence of ASEAN's development plan and China's Belt and Road Initiative, which is based on the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, will inject even more vitality into their reciprocal cooperation.