Asean, China adopt S.China Sea 'code of conduct' framework

China to endorse South China Sea code of conduct

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) meets with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of a series of ASEAN foreign ministers' meetings in Manila, the Philippines, Aug. 6, 2017.

They called on China and the Philippines to abide by an arbitration ruling past year that invalidated much of China's territorial claim to the South China Sea, which is claimed in part by Taiwan and ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The ministers had been debating for at least two days on how to respond to China collectively, with Vietnam said to be strongly resisting an agreement on the framework for a code of conduct as pushed by Beijing.

"ASEAN set aside the tribunal ruling, didn't complain about continued Chinese militarization of the South China Sea, watered down its joint statements, and basically wasted a year, all so they could reiterate the same principles they already agreed to in the declaration on conduct 15 years ago", Poling said prior to Sunday's announcement.

"Indonesia welcomes the adoption of the CoC framework by the foreign ministers of ASEAN [member countries] and China", Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said on Sunday afternoon, as quoted by the ministry spokesperson.

Within ASEAN, however, there is a view sympathetic to China, which has ignored the ruling.

The ministers failed to release a customary joint statement after meeting on Saturday due to their differences on the sea issue, and follow-up negotiations on Sunday did not end the stand-off, two diplomats involved in the talks said.

The US, Australia and Japan have promised to continue "freedom of navigation" operations in the South China Sea and called on Beijing to endorse a legally binding code of conduct over the disputed region.

On the territorial disputes in the South China Sea that embroil ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, the 10 foreign ministers on Saturday approved a framework of a long-proposed code of conduct aimed at preventing clashes in the disputed waters, Bolivar said. "But the Philippines is trying very hard to broker compromise language".

"But of course the caveat there is, we have to have an effective Code of Conduct".

This comes as Manila hosts the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting, where regional officials discuss issues such as the South China Sea dispute and the North Korea tensions.

The Philippines scored a major legal victory a year ago, when an global tribunal in the Hague threw out most of China's territorial claims, but since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila has become less confrontational with Beijing.

"Beijing's task has been made easier because the Philippines holds the (ASEAN) chair this year".

The area consists of rocks and shoals and is only about 200 km (125 miles) from the main Philippine island of Luzon. The court said that, in effect, no country had sovereign rights over the rocky outcrop, therefore entitling all countries with overlapping claims to use its resources. But he claimed that Xi threatened him with war if he went ahead with implementing those plans.

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