ASEAN, Japan tackle NoKor, South China Sea

Frederick Owens
August 8, 2017

The statement urged them to make sure such a code of conduct be "legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with global law".

The three countries are calling for a halt to land development and military actions in the area that could increase tensions or cause permanent environmental damage.

Beijing rejects the statement, Wang says, as well as an global arbitration panel's decision ruling against the majority of China's claims in the disputed waters.

China's territorial disputes in the strategic and potentially oil- and gas-rich waterway with Taiwan and ASEAN member states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam intensified after Beijing built islands in the disputed waters in recent years and reportedly started to install a missile defense system on them, alarming rival claimant states as well as the USA and other Western governments. An estimated US$5.3 trillion of trade passes annually in the disputed maritime region, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

Australia, Japan and the United States on Monday urged Southeast Asia and China to ensure that a South China Sea code of conduct they have committed to draw up will be legally binding and said they strongly opposed "coercive unilateral actions".

China has lauded Singapore for its "positive" and "constructive" role as country coordinator for Asean-China dialogue relations.

ASEAN and China on Sunday approved the framework for a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea and targeted to start the negotiations on the actual code by the end of the year.

The ministers endorsed the framework on Saturday, a day before meeting with their Chinese counterpart, when they are expected to jointly adopt it.

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A satellite image shows what CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says appears to be anti-aircraft guns and what are likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) on the artificial island Hughes Reef in the South China Sea in this image released on December 13, 2016.

"I have been tasked by my ASEAN colleagues to convey this to you personally and likewise affirm ASEAN's commitment to engaging your country within the ASEAN Regional Forum, given the importance of this platform for our continued discussions", he said.

Vietnam, which has long pursued the most determined defence of its territorial claims, had argued that any agreement would be meaningless unless it were legally binding.

The foreign ministers held their first talks on Monday in Manila, where both arrived for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting.

Kono and Lavrov find it necessary to carry out economically meaningful projects at an early date on the islands, officials with access to the meeting said.

Several ASEAN diplomats told Reuters that Vietnam was one country that had pushed for stronger wording in the statement.

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".

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