China Set for Easy Ride From Asean on Disputed South China Sea

International News

"It is our view that precisely because ASEAN represents the cultural, commercial and physical cross-roads of the region, it has a unique ability to reflect and harmonise larger interests of the world beyond it", he said.

"We discussed extensively the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region", the statement read.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday (03/08) that China was willing to work with Asean to maintain the "hard won" stability in the South China Sea and steadily push forward with talks on the code of conduct.

China has steadfastly opposed any mention in Asean statements of its island-building in the disputed waters, its reported installation of a missile defense system on the new features and an arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing's historic claims to the strategic waters.

Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including a cluster of islands, reefs and atolls further south called the Spratlys; ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims on the waters.

Representatives from the Philippines said at ASEAN, they and China are expected to consider and approve a Code of Conduct for issues bordering on the South China Sea, which is highly disputed by multiple countries due to its rich resources.

At the ASEAN-China meeting on August 6, both sides had a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of the ASEAN-China centre, aimed at assessing reports on the implementation of action plans with dialogue partners.

"So far as far as I know the consensus in Asean is at the very least the code of conduct that is to be negotiated still, that the negotiations that will happen in the next few months or years should produce a substantive and effective code of conduct", he said in a press briefing.

Vietnam, the most determined critic of China on the issue, had insisted during two days of negotiations that ASEAN insist the code be legally binding, arguing otherwise it would be meaningless.

It is unclear how a non-legally binding COC is different from the non-binding DOC.

A separate Asean document, dated May and seen by Reuters, shows that Vietnam pushed for stronger, more specific text.

Sovereign rights cover entitlements to fish and extract natural resources.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the adoption of the framework created a solid foundation for negotiations that could start this year, if "the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and on the premise that there is no major interference from outside parties". Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

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