Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong urged South China Sea claimants to solve the dispute peacefully by following international laws.

He hoped that ASEAN and China would reach an agreement on the Code of Conduct (COC) to prevent the dispute escalating.

Namhong raised the topic during a meeting with Australian ambassador to Cambodia Pablo Kang on October 1.

He said the South China Sea should be the "sea of peace and security", with freedom of navigation and overflight guaranteed.

“I hope that ASEAN and China will continue to negotiate to achieve a Code of Conduct in the near future. So far, the negotiation is nearly finished,” he said.

He noted that as the chair of ASEAN for the third time in 2022, Cambodia will prioritise strengthening ASEAN unity and ensuring peace and security in the region.

According to Namhong, at the upcoming 2022 ASEAN summit, the regional bloc will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

He recalled Cambodia’s efforts as the chair of ASEAN for the first time in 2002 when the DOC was achieved to avoid military conflict.

"Now, 20 years have passed and all relevant parties are still demanding full respect for this DOC.

“In 2012, Cambodia chaired ASEAN for the second time. Then we tried to push for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) among the 10 ASEAN member states and Australia, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and New Zealand,” he said.

The RCEP, he said, will provide benefits for business, trade, investment, and economic integration deeper among the RCEP members.