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Security for All
Asian countries need to strengthen cooperation on regional security
By Bai Shi | NO. 18 MAY 5, 2016

Foreign ministers pose for a group photo ahead of the fifth ministerial meeting of the CICA held in Beijing on April 28 (XINHUA)

When the fifth meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) foreign ministers opened in Beijing on April 28, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for continuous efforts to build a common, comprehensive and sustainable Asian security architecture on the basis of cooperation.

In his speech at the opening ceremony, Xi said peace and stability are the common aspirations of all Asian people. While economic growth and regional integration have seen Asia's place in the world rising, still, there are both conventional and unconventional challenges to Asia's security. They include regional conflicts and terrorism. Against such a backdrop, Asian countries need to work side by side to strengthen regional security.

He also stated China's stance on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Reiterating China's adherence to the UN Security Council resolution, he said China was committed to the Korean Peninsula's denuclearization. "As a close neighbor, we will never allow war or chaos on the Peninsula, as this serves nobody's interests," Xi said. He urged all parties involved to exercise restraint, avoid provocation, and find a way back to the dialogue and negotiating table at an early date.

With regard to the tensions in the South China Sea, the president said China is dedicated to peace and stability in the region. While firmly safeguarding its sovereignty, rights and interests, China is willing to peacefully resolve the disputes through friendly consultations and dialogue with the countries directly involved.

China will work with Southeast Asian nations to make the South China Sea a region of peace, friendship and cooperation, Xi added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the fifth foreign ministers' meeting of the CICA in Beijing on April 28 (XINHUA)

What is CICA?

The CICA was established in 1992 as a forum for dialogue, consultation and promotion of confidence-building measures. It now has 26 member states, seven observer states and four observer international organizations.

At the Fourth CICA Summit in Shanghai in 2014, China assumed chairmanship of the institution first the first time. The tenure was to expire this year. However, at the fifth CICA foreign ministers' meeting, CICA member states spoke highly of China's efforts and agreed to extend China's chairmanship till 2018.

The fifth CICA foreign ministers' meeting centered on "promoting security through dialogue." About 40 delegations from CICA member states, observer states and international organizations attended the two-day meeting.

Currently, Asia faces many security challenges: terrorism, poverty, territorial disputes, nuclear proliferation and other unconventional threats. The CICA is a multilateral dialogue platform for all Asian countries to discuss security-related issues.

Can it serve as an intergovernmental organization to arbitrate in regional affairs?

"The CICA is not a place to resolve concrete issue. It seeks to find a common understanding of security and tries to build an architecture that can be comprehended and accepted by all countries in the region," Gui Congyou, Director General of the Department of European-Central Asian Affairs under China's Foreign Ministry, said ahead of the meeting.

"There are many complicated problems and deep –rooted conflicts in Asia. These issues are [all] different. How to resolve them? First, Asian countries should find a common ground," Gui said.

The official pointed out that at the CICA Summit in Shanghai two years ago, Xi had proposed that the CICA become "a security dialogue and cooperation platform for all of Asia, from which countries can explore the possibility of creating a regional security framework."

China's work

At the Shanghai Summit, the Chinese president also said China is willing to take a leading role in exploring the creation of a "code of conduct for regional security and an Asian security partnership program."

As the chair of the CICA, China has been coordinating with all parties to implement action plans in military, politics, economy, culture and environment areas. The CICA has been strengthened institutionally and its influence expanded.

But the work to build a common security architecture for Asia should not be limited to governments. So the first annual meeting of the CICA's nongovernmental forum was held in Beijing in last May, when diplomats, scholars, media outlets and nongovernmental organizations took the opportunity to exchange ideas on security and development.

Security cooperation is easier said than done. China chose to start the work with cultural exchanges and economic cooperation. Last year, China hosted the first meetings of the CICA youth commission and the CICA industrialists' commission in Beijing. The two meetings helped narrow down differences in highly sensitive security perspectives.

Asian civilizations are diverse and the development gap between Asian countries is wide. Building a common understanding of security needs dialogue among all nations concerned.

CICA Signposts

1992: At the 47th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposes a multilateral security forum. Other Asian leaders welcome the proposal and Kazakhstan starts efforts to establish the CICA in 1993.

1999: The first CICA ministerial meeting is held in Almaty of Kazakhstan on September 14 with 15 member states. The Declaration on Principles Guiding Relations between CICA Member States is signed, laying the foundation of the CICA.

2002: The First CICA Summit is held in Almaty on June 4. Sixteen member states sign the Almaty Act, the charter of the CICA, pledging to "promote peace, security and stability in Asia."

2004: The second meeting of CICA foreign ministers in Almaty on October 22 adopts the CICA Catalog of Confidence-Building Measures and CICA Rules of Procedure and Declaration of CICA Ministerial Meeting.

2006: The Second CICA Summit is held on June 17. It adopts the Statute of CICA Secretariat and Declaration of the Second CICA Summit. The establishment of the CICA Secretariat is an important milestone.

2008: The third CICA ministerial meeting is held on August 25. Jordan and the United Arab Emirates become new members, taking the membership to 20.

2010: The Third CICA Summit is held in Istanbul of Turkey on June 8. The CICA chairmanship passes from Kazakhstan to Turkey. Iraq and Viet Nam are admitted as new members, taking the membership to 22.

2012: The fourth CICA ministerial meet is held in Astana, Kazakhstan, on September 12. Ministers agree to explore opportunities to develop road and railway links in the CICA region.

2014: The Fourth CICA Summit is held in Shanghai on May 21 with the participation of 26 member states, 11 observer states and international organizations. Turkey passes on the CICA chairmanship to China. Bangladesh and Qatar are admitted as new members.

2016: The fifth meeting of the CICA foreign ministers opens in Beijing on April 28.

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

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