CHONBURI, Thailand, April 21 (Xinhua) -- The drafting of the South China Sea code of conduct (COC) is a working process without a timeframe, the director-general of the ASEAN Affairs Department of Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Xinhua Monday.
"We need to use some caution and proceed step by step. It will take time," Arthayudh Srisamoot said on the sidelines of the 7th ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which opened Monday in Thailand's central Chonburi province.
As the country coordinator of ASEAN-China relations, Thailand is trying to organize more meetings this year to help ASEAN countries and China conduct more negotiations on the COC and jointly undertake more practical cooperation, Arthayudh said.
The two-day meeting on the DOC is held back to back with the 20th ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Consultation.
The two meetings will review the China-ASEAN cooperation in a wide range of fields last year, and promote further exchange of views and negotiation on how to push forward the formulation of the COC, according to Arthayudh.
"The process of the COC has just started, and there has been good progress," he said, adding that the process will be further accelerated with about five meetings this year.
The meetings already held in the Chinese city of Suzhou last year and in Singapore earlier this year have enabled ASEAN and China to exchange views frankly and better understand each other's positions, Arthayudh noted.
"What we have now is some initial commonalities that we can improve upon over time. Both sides have shown a lot of good will to meet more often and determination to create a good environment and come up with the COC to enhance cooperation and stability in the region," he said.
In 2014, China and ASEAN are expected to engage in more practical cooperation in such areas as search and rescue, joint research on marine resources, opening of telephone hotlines and crackdown on transnational crimes, according to Arthayudh.
Obstacles remain, though, he said. "Sometimes, the situation on the ground (certain actions taken by concerned parties) may complicate things and create misunderstanding in our negotiation."
He called on the parties concerned to regain mutual trust so that the situation could return to normal to facilitate further cooperation between ASEAN and China.
China is ASEAN's largest trading partner while ASEAN is China's third largest trading partner. "We are so close. It is very important for us to engage with each other," Arthayudh commented.