China, Philippines urged to abide by maritime ruling

China to endorse South China Sea code of conduct

China to endorse South China Sea code of conduct

The three countries issued a joint statement after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met in the Philippines on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting.

Foreign ministers of the ten ASEAN member countries and China have adopted a framework for a Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea.

Robespierre L. Bolivar, spokesman of the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs, said the foreign ministers "endorsed the framework of the code of conduct for eventual adoption at the ASEAN-China ministerial meeting on August 6".

On Sunday, Beijing scored a coup when ASEAN ministers issued a diluted statement on the dispute and agreed to Beijing's terms on talks during a security forum which the bloc is hosting in Manila.

ASEAN's deadlock over the statement highlights China's growing influence on the grouping at a time of uncertainty over the new USA administration's security priorities and whether it will try to keep China's maritime activities in check.

Southeast Asian nations feuded on 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, diplomats said.

Its claims overlap with those of Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

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"We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states", according to the short section on the South China Sea included in a 46-page communique.

That pact, the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, has been largely ignored, particularly by China, which reclaimed seven reefs and can now deploy combat planes on three, besides defense systems already in place.

The Philippines, which serves as ASEAN chairman this year, called the conclusion of talks between China and ASEAN to finalize the framework "a very big step".

Wang congratulated ASEAN on its 50th anniversary, saying China is happy for ASEAN's development and achievements while expressing best wishes for ASEAN's development in the next 50 years.

"Continuing claims that are in conflict with other countries will demonstrate to all of us what kind of country China will be", he said.

But after the election of President Rodrigo Duterte previous year, Manila has played down the verdict in favour of pursuing warmer ties with Beijing, a move that led to offers of billions of dollars in investments or aid from China. The court said that, in effect, no country had sovereign rights over the rocky outcrop, therefore entitling all countries with overlapping claims to use its resources.

Following the court decision a year ago, Duterte himself said that he told Chinese leader Xi Jinping that he planned drilling explorations in the area.

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