China, ASEAN agree to begin crafting South China Sea code » Manila Bulletin News

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By Genalyn Kabiling

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have finally agreed to start negotiations for the Code of Conduct (COC) to ease the tension in the disputed South China Sea.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. (VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The agreement on the crafting the rules governing concerned parties involved in the disputed territory was reached during the ASEAN-China Summit chaired by President Duterte at the Philippine International Convention Center.

“The President has expressed optimism about the future direction of ASEAN-China dialogue relations based on the substantive discussions during the ASEAN-China Summit this afternoon,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said after the summit talks.

“One of the outcomes of the meetings is to commence the negotiations on a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea after concluding Framework Agreement on Code of Conduct,” he added.

Roque said ASEAN-China Summit resulted in the issuance of the following documents:

  • ASEAN-China Joint Statement on Comprehensively Strengthening Effective Anti-Corruption Cooperation;
  • ASEAN-China Leaders’ Statement on Tourism Cooperation; and
  • Joint Statement between China and ASEAN on Further Deepening the Cooperation of Infrastructure Connectivity

Earlier, President Duterte called on China to agree on the crafting of the COC to ease the tension in the disputed waters. Duterte also raised the concern of the regional bloc about China’s increased military buildup in the contested territory.

Following talks with Duterte, Chinese President Xi Jinping has committed to support negotiations for the South China Sea COC to reduce the conflict among the claimant nations. Xi also assured Duterte that China respects the freedom of navigation principle in the regional waters.

China claims most parts of the South China Sea using the nine dash line concept. Taiwan and four ASEAN nations – Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei – have competing claims in the area.

China, ASEAN friendship

China also committed to sustain its “good” friendship and partnership with the ASEAN, promising to “stand together, rain or shine.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gave the assurance to President Duterte and other leaders of the regional bloc.

“China always sees ASEAN as a priority in our neighborhood diplomacy,” Premier Li said in his remarks.

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