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ASEAN, China to form framework for handling disputed territories

Foreign ministers have also issued a statement supporting initiatives to improve peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Updated: August 07, 2017 08:46 AM GMT
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ASEAN, China to form framework for handling disputed territories

Filipino activists stage a protest rally during a meeting of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila in May. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China adopted a code of conduct "framework" that will be the basis for negotiations over disputed territories in the South China Sea during a meeting of foreign ministers in Manila on Aug. 6.

ASEAN leaders and China agreed to meet later this month to discuss the "modalities" for the negotiations of the actual code of conduct with the approved framework as the basis for the talks, said Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar.

Bolivar said leaders of the regional alliance and China will continue to cooperate "on such practical maritime cooperation efforts, including management and prevention of conflicts among parties through confidence-building measures, as well as to prevent miscalculations on the ground."

ASEAN, a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation among Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

A statement reflecting the adoption of the code of conduct is expected to be issued at the end of the Manila meeting on Aug. 8. China proposed the "three-step initiative" toward a code of conduct in the disputed waters during the meeting on Aug. 6.

"When the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and if there is no major disruption from outside parties, as a precondition, then we will consider during the November (ASEAN) leaders' meeting, we will jointly announce the official start of the [code of conduct] consultations," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists covering the meeting.

The Chinese official said all parties will discuss the principle and plan for the next stage consultation of the code of conduct later in the month.

"China and ASEAN have the ability and wisdom to work together to maintain regional peace and stability, and we will work out regional rules that we mutually agreed upon so as to open up a bright future for our future relations," said Yi.

He expressed confidence that relations between ASEAN and China "will move from a period of rapid growth to a period of maturity ... to a comprehensive strategic partnership."


Call for peace in Korean Peninsula

The ASEAN foreign ministers has also issued a statement supporting initiatives to improve peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula, saying that the organization is "ready to play a constructive role in contributing to peace and stability" in the region.

The Southeast Asian leaders expressed "grave concern" over escalating tensions in the peninsula as North Korea continued to carry out missile tests, with the most recent testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles on July 4.

"These developments seriously threaten peace, security and stability in the region and the world," read the ASEAN statement. "In this regard, we strongly urge the [North Korea] to immediately comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions."

The ASEAN foreign ministers reiterated their call for complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula "in a peaceful manner" and for the "exercise of self-restraint."

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the meeting in Manila this week is a "golden opportunity" for ASEAN member states to take on the role of being "partners for change."

"Let us seize this opportunity to transform shared aspirations and values instituted by our founding fathers, no less than their dreams and visions into concrete actions and tangible outcomes that will propel our community to a brighter future our people truly deserve," said Cayetano.

With more than 600 million people, the ten Southeast Asian countries belonging to ASEAN has a combined growth domestic product of US$2.4 trillion and has been dubbed as the third fastest growing economy next to China and India if it were a single economy.

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