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China, ASEAN agree on framework for S. China Sea code of conduct

China, ASEAN agree on framework for S. China Sea code of conduct

A framework agreement between China and the Association of Southeast Asia Nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea marks a potentially significant step toward cooling tensions in the strategic waterway, analysts said Friday.

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin noted on Chinese state television that the framework agreement took the concerns of all parties into account.

China and the members of ASEAN committed 15 years ago to signing a code of conduct, but progress has been slow amid disputes over the body of water that China claims virtually in its entirety. Nearly a third of the world's trade, worth $5 trillion annually, passes through the South China Sea, which Beijing claims in its entirety and the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan do in part.

The United States has criticised what it has called China's militarization of its maritime outposts and stressed the need for freedom of navigation by conducting periodic air and naval patrols near them.

THE Foreign Affairs Department said Wednesday it is verifying reports that China has built up rocket launchers in Fiery Cross Reef or Kagitingan Reef in the disputed South China Sea.

Liu said President Duterte's first visit to China in October last year has resulted to a full recovery of China-Philippines relations which encountered enormous difficulties in the last five years.

Liu said the content of the COC draft framework reflects the basic principles and spirit of the DOC.

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Fiery Cross is controlled by China but also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. ASEAN is now chaired by the Philippines, whose leader Rodrigo Duterte has pursued a bilateral rapprochement with Beijing since being sworn into office in June 2016.

Experts say China wants to appear to engage ASEAN or bind its claimant states to a weak code at a time when USA policy on the South China Sea is in a state of flux.

The meeting was held ahead of the upcoming China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in July, the state news agency reported.

Mr. Duterte visited Beijing for the second time last week and had separate dialogues with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the China-sponsored Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

Biazon said the favorable ruling of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippines in the territorial dispute over the South China Sea gives the country the moral authority to speak out against China's actions. The Philippine government maintained that it owns the territory where Filipino troops and villagers have lived for decades.

"We discussed the South China Sea issue and for the past months, there have been no major disruptions and the situation in the South China Sea and the region has been stable", he said.

China claims nearly the entire waterway, through which about US$5 trillion in goods pass every year.


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