Indonesia and other Asia-Pacific countries need to strike a binding peace deal to defuse regional tensions, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told a Jakarta news conference earlier this month.
"We need a friendly agreement and good co-operation among Asia-Pacific countries to curb any potential conflicts in the region," he told reporters February 13th. "We need to discuss this issue because conflict in this area is ongoing."
Marty spoke amid regional concerns the Chinese government may be looking to impose an air defence identification zone over the South China Sea, as it did in November over the East China Sea.
Indonesia is long seen as an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) leader working to ease tensions over contending territorial claims in the South China Sea between China and bloc members including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
Indonesians welcomed Marty's remarks promoting regional peace.
"The South China Sea is important because it can influence the security for various countries in the region and therefore, agreement and co-operation is necessary," Asep Karsidi, head of the Geospatial Information Agency (BIG), told Khabar Southeast Asia.
University of Indonesia geography student Nanang Widodo commented that problems in the South China Sea appear to be growing more serious.
"The ambiguity about the claimed areas obviously raises risks with security and peace in the region," Nanang told Khabar, adding that regional security was essential to preventing human trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism.
Code of Conduct
South China Sea tensions and a proposed code of conduct were on the agenda when US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Marty February 17th in Jakarta.
Marty said the two "discussed the issue of the South China Sea, and also Indonesia's initiative on the prevention of violence and our preference for resolving issues through diplomacy," according to a transcript of a joint news conference.
"The United States is very grateful for the leadership and the role that Indonesia has played in advancing China-ASEAN negotiations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea," Kerry added. "It's not an exaggeration to say that the region's future stability will depend, in part, on the success and the timeliness of the effort to produce a code of conduct."
On Thursday (February 20th), Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop echoed that message after meeting in Manila with her Philippine counterpart, Albert del Rosario.
"In the case of the South China Sea, we support ASEAN objectives in concluding a Code of Conduct with China and we hope that there will be some early progress on that," AFP quoted Bishop as telling reporters.
"We urge all sides not to escalate tensions," she added.