His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the ASEAN Plus Three Summit
[Delivered in the Kingdom of Cambodia on November 19, 2012]
Among the principles that the ASEAN community has pledged to abide by is that of centrality; it should also be foremost in our minds as we address concerns in the East Asian maritime region. Prevailing tensions in the area stand to impact regional peace and stability. As we are bound by shared aspirations, so too are we bound by shared responsibilities; the challenges that we shirk from today will be the ones that plague us tomorrow.
We reiterate our call on all parties concerned to avoid the threat or use of force, and to adhere to universally recognized principles of international law in settling disputes, particularly those under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), because respect for the rule of law remains the great equalizer in the relations among nations. Conversely, in the absence of clear rules for everyone to follow, tensions do not subside but only remain dormant; lasting resolutions remain elusive; respect becomes subject to whim and discretion, rather than an imperative that should be granted to, and extended by, all members of the community of nations.
It is my hope that, in the coming years, we will look back on today and see a time when the ASEAN community came together and unlocked its full potential—a time when, shoulder-to-shoulder, we took our first steps towards a unified Southeast Asia that, in recognizing its singular destiny, fully harnesses the energies borne of its diversity.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.