ASEAN, Beijing Agree to Talks on South China Sea Code

Asean countries willing to have talks with China to avoid clashes

Asean countries willing to have talks with China to avoid clashes

"It will help the DPRK to make the right and smart decision", Wang told reporters, according to a translator, after discussing the sanctions with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Hong-Yo ahead of a regional security forum in the Philippine capital Manila.

China's Foreign Minister Wan Yi (sixth from left) links arms with ASEAN foreign ministers and their representatives during the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the ASEAN-China Center in Manila yesterday.

"If there is no major disruption from outside parties, with that as the precondition, then we will consider during the November leaders' meeting, we will jointly announce the official start of the code of conduct consultation", Wang said.

TOUGH LANGUAGE Sunday's announcement was preceded by Vietnam's insistence that a tough language be stated in the joint communiqué concerning China's land reclamation in the contested waters, two diplomats involved in the talks told AFP.

In their statement, the ASEAN ministers did not address the possible USA proposal for excluding North Korea from the ARF but called on Pyongyang to "positively contribute" to realising the forum's vision of maintaining Asia and the Pacific "as a region of lasting peace, stability, friendship and prosperity".

A Philippine government spokesman, Robespierre Bolivar, had said the ministers' joint communique would be issued promptly on Saturday.

The agreed text "emphasized the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint".

With the Philippines serving as host to ASEAN, the country's about-face lifted a significant cloud over China, with only Vietnam reportedly continuing to insist that the group condemn Beijing's actions. Wang's mention of the vague conditions can allow China to delay or halt the planned talks for any reason. The problem is that no other country is willing to directly confront China, since it is economically and militarily more powerful and probably the most powerful in South East Asia.

Wang made no reference to any country, however, China's activities on the man-made islands have sparked tensions and triggered concerns among several nations, including the U.S.

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Japan urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take a stronger stand against North Korea's development of nuclear weapons.

China has steadfastly opposed any mention in ASEAN statements of its island building in the disputed waters, its reported installation of a missile defence system on the new features and an arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing's historic claims to the strategic waters.

They also mentioned in their 46-page statement a vague reference to an global arbitration ruling past year that invalidated China's historical claims to virtually all of the strategic waterway.

The top diplomats from all those nations are in Manila for the ASEAN Regional Forum, an annual security forum, which begins on Monday.

A Southeast Asian diplomat said Sunday that Vietnam had pushed for stronger language despite opposition from numerous ministers, whose countries rely heavily on China for trade and investment.

It said that after extensive discussions, concerns were voiced by some members about land reclamation "and activities in the area which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tension and may undermine peace, security and stability".

In July, South Korea's Defense Ministry proposed talks between representatives of the two countries' militaries at Tongil-gak on the North Korean side of Panmunjom, the so-called truce village in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two rivals.

The United Nations Security Council was set to vote on Saturday on a US -drafted resolution that aims to slash by a third North Korea's $3 billion annual export revenue over Pyongyang's two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in July.

In place of a legally binding code, China and the 10-member Asean grouping settled for a mere declaration in 2002 that calls on claimants to exercise restraint and stop new occupation in the South China Sea.

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