ASEAN ministers endorse framework code in South China Sea

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FOREIGN ministers from Southeast Asia and China yesterday adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Its sweeping claims overlap with those of ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan. He said the framework is an outline and countries can put in more substantive aspects of the code when the negotiations start.

"When the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, if there is no major disruption from outside parties", he said.

Philippine government spokesman Robespierre Bolivar also announced the adoption of the framework and consensus on steps to start negotiations on the actual code.

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In fact, an exasperated diplomat based in the Asean secretariat in Jakarta told an worldwide news service then that it was like déjà vu how the heads of state and government were behaving in Vientiane-referring to their lack of unity and indecisiveness in handling the resulting tension from China's seizure of the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal.

They said they "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".

China has always taken ASEAN as a priority in its foreign diplomacy and has always supported ASEAN in taking a central role in regional cooperation and a bigger role in dealing with worldwide and regional affairs, he said.

The arbitral tribunal also said that China violated Philippine rights by barring access to Scarborough Shoal - also called Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal by the Philippines - a traditional fishing ground for Filipino and Vietnamese fishers.

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These have all the makings of more dissenting voices emerging in the run-up to the culminating summit in November, voices not necessarily only Asean in origin but also those of China, Japan and the United States and their respective interests in the regional bloc in whose territorial waters traverse an estimated $5 trillion of trade annually.

Sixth, to build new pillars for people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, ensure the success of the China-ASEAN Tourism Cooperation Year, and issue a joint statement on tourism cooperation so as to consolidate public support and social foundation for bilateral relations.

But China, which claims virtually the entire South China Sea, is unlikely to allow the negotiations to move in that direction.

Wang Yi told reporters on the sidelines of a regional meeting that there had been "really tangible progress" made between the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China towards settling disputes in the South China Sea, and all sides needed to cherish that momentum.

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