JAKARTA, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- The complicated issue in the South China Sea remains a challenge in the process of building the ASEAN community, ASEAN's new Secretary General Le Luong Minh said here Wednesday.
Minh made the remarks when addressing at the office transfer ceremony held here at the ASEAN headquarters attended by around 200 foreign ambassadors and diplomats.
Minh, the 61-year-old veteran Vietnamese diplomat, officially assumed his position as ASEAN secretary-general for a non- renewable term of five years Wednesday. He was approved by the leaders of ASEAN member countries at their 21st summit in Cambodia last November to succeed Surin Pitsuwan.
"The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should speed up efforts towards an early start of negotiations with China with a view to achieving an early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea," Minh said.
He said the conclusion of the COC is important for ensuring effective and timely implementation of the ASEAN Political and Security Community Blueprints.
ASEAN's 10 members in 2008 adopted a charter committing to form by 2015 a "community" based on three main pillars - ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.
Minh said the conclusion of the COC should be built on the progress reflected in the agreement between ASEAN and China on the guidelines for Implementing the Declaration on Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea, in ASEAN's 6-point principles on the South China Sea and in the adoption of the ASEAN-China Joint Statement on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the DOC.
China and the ASEAN countries in 2002 signed the DOC, which states that sovereign states should resolve territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means and through friendly consultations and negotiations.
As to the economic pillar, Minh said creating conditions for more open flow of investments, capital, labor, goods and services will pose great challenges for ASEAN member states.
"Providing our young people with good education is one of the most effective ways out of the poverty trap," Minh said, citing the work to be done in establishing the social and cultural pillar.
"The ASEAN secretariat will continue to play active roles in supporting and coordinating with member states to help facilitate and drive the establishment of the ASEAN community, Minh added.