Sea code framework adopted by Asean and China but no Asean joint statement

  • (L-R) Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Myanmar’s Minister of State of Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin, Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Brunei’s Foreign Minister Lim Jock Seng, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Laos’ Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith and ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh join hands for a family photo during the opening ceremony of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Manila on August 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Mohd RASFAN

Foreign ministers of Asean and China have adopted the framework of a code of conduct to ease tensions in the South China Sea, a move the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi viewed as “progress”, according to The Manila Times Online on Monday.

But Wang said China will only agree to start negotiations on the sea code “if there is no more disruption from non-regional parties and when the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable.”

Philippine Foreign Minister spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said the ministers agreed to convene in August to discuss modalities of the negotiations on the actual code of conduct and Asean leaders are expected to announce the formal start of the negotiations at the summit in November.

Bolivar said the framework on the code of conduct will not be released to the public because of its sensitivity.

The framework will be the basis for negotiations of the actual code and discussions would be structure on the elements enumerated in the code.

Asean members feuded Sunday over how to respond to Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea, with Vietnam insisting on a tough stance but Cambodia lobbying hard for Beijing, according to diplomats.

The ministers failed to release a customary joint statement after meeting on Saturday because of their differences on the sea issue and follow-up negotiations on Sunday did not end the stand-off, two diplomats told AFP.

One diplomat said the disagreement over the wordings on the sea issue were holding up the release of the communique.  

“Vietnam is adamant and China is effectively using Cambodia to champion its interests.  But the Philippines is trying very hard to broker compromise language,” said the diplomat.

Vietnam had insisted that tough language be inserted into the statement expressing concern over “land reclamation”, a reference to an explosion in recent years of Chinese artificial island building in contested parts of the waters.

But Cambodia, one of China’s strongest allies within Asean, has firmly resisted.

China claims nearly all of the sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes, and its artificial islands have raised concerns it could eventually build military bases there and establish de facto control over the waters.

Source :