Posts Tagged ‘code of conduct’

Analysis: US, allies slow Beijing’s South China Sea momentum

August 8, 2017
 August 8 at 8:14 AM
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MANILA, Philippines — With the rise of a friendly leader in the Philippines, China has been spared a vocal adversary in the disputed South China Sea. In the process, it has gained momentum despite last year’s ruling by an arbitration tribunal that invalidated its expansive claims in the disputed waters.The rapprochement between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, defused a tense standoff between the Asian neighbors last year at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where China allowed Filipinos back to fish in October as years of thorny relations began to brighten.As President Donald Trump succeeded Barack Obama, who had challenged China’s assertive advances in the disputed sea, U.S. allies wondered if Trump would press America’s role as a regional counterbalance to the Asian powerhouse.

An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Australian and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the meetings in Manila of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. After their meeting, they issued a joint statement that blasted aggressive actions in the contested offshore territories — without, of course, naming Beijing directly, in line with diplomatic practice.

Nevertheless, China quickly voiced its irritation.

Its top diplomat said that while his country and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc “all fully recognized that the situation in the South China Sea is showing signs of changes and things are moving toward a positive direction,” some countries outside the region “are not seeing the positive changes” and are holding onto a mindset that “still stays in the past.”

After the Philippines, ASEAN’s leader this year, hosted the first of three major summits of the bloc in April, Duterte issued a traditional chairman’s statement that dropped mention of contentious issues, including Beijing’s island constructions in disputed reefs that China has lobbied to be struck out of such high-profile communiques. For China, it was seen as a diplomatic coup.

Closeted in their annual gathering in Manila over the weekend, however, ASEAN foreign ministers wrangled over the tone and wordings to depict the territorial rifts involving China and five other governments in their joint statement, which unlike the chairman’s statement is a negotiated document.

A draft of the ASEAN ministerial statement seen by The Associated Press before it was finalized and made public provided a glimpse of the closed-door intramurals, with Vietnam insisting on stronger language against China’s increasingly assertive actions in the busy waters.

Vietnamese diplomats, for example, insisted on mentioning concern over “extended construction” in the contested waters. Cambodia, a Chinese ally, deferred a vote on the inclusion of worries over militarization.

The Philippines was one of the countries that opposed mention of land reclamation and militarization in the communique, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano acknowledged in a news conference late Tuesday. China, he said, threatened to end future talks aimed at resolving conflicts if the arbitration ruling was mentioned in the statement.

“We won’t make any progress,” Cayetano said. “China already said if you talk about the arbitration award there is no talks.”

The protracted quibblings delayed the statement’s release, two Southeast Asian diplomats told the AP. When it was issued a day later, the joint ministerial statement — surprisingly — mentioned land reclamation and militarization and, to Beijing’s certain dismay, carried a vague reference to the arbitration ruling: “full respect for diplomatic and legal process.”

Wang played down mention of the issues, including land reclamation, that critics have used to refer to China’s massive island constructions in the South China Sea.

The next battle is over a proposed “code of conduct,” which aims to stymie aggressive behavior in the disputed sea, including new construction and military fortifications. China concluded talks with ASEAN for a negotiating framework for the nonaggression code, a baby step both sides hailed as a milestone.

Most ASEAN states, including the Philippines, back a legally binding code. China wants otherwise and opposes mention of the contentious issues, including arbitration and a conflict-resolution arrangement, given its preference to solve the conflicts through one-on-one negotiation with its smaller rival claimants. With ASEAN unable to do anything unless it acquiesces to China’s wishes, it relented to reach a consensus. Proponents of the rule of law were dismayed.

The agreed framework “is a lowest-common-denominator effort. It lacks teeth because China has opposed making it legally binding and refused to include a dispute settlement mechanism,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“With ASEAN itself divided and China’s sway over individual ASEAN members growing,” Glaser said, “this is an unsurprising even if disappointing development.”

Wang announced at the Manila meetings that China would be ready to start negotiations for the maritime code when its leader travels to the Philippines and joins ASEAN heads of state in November.

But first, he said, in a shot at the United States, the situation has to be stable and free of “major disruption from outside parties.”

The United States, Australia and Japan immediately weighed in, urging China and ASEAN “to ensure that the code of conduct be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law.”

“Outside parties like the U.S. will do what they think is needed to promote peace and stability in the region,” Glaser said. “If China opposes those actions, so be it.”

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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

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South China Sea: Did ASEAN Make Life Tougher For China?

August 8, 2017

Commentary

 / 05:20 AM August 08, 2017
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At last. Departing from a string of weak statements that glossed over or altogether avoided any mention of China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea, the joint communiqué issued on Sunday by the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila was notable for addressing not only China’s seizure and reclamation of islands in the disputed waters but also the militarization of the area.

“We discussed extensively the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some Ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” the statement read in part.

Further: “We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.”

For a while, it had looked like the 10-member regional bloc would once again succumb to pressure from China — through Cambodia, its closest ally in the group — to finesse its statement and avoid language that could be seen as chiding Beijing. Although five Asean member-nations — Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines — have claims on waters and islets in the South China Sea, almost all of which China claims as its own on the basis of a nine-dash map that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has declared as without legal basis, reaching consensus on stronger language and a united front has been a contentious process.

The Philippines, which is this year’s Asean chair and which had won an important legal victory over China with the arbitral ruling, itself chose to avoid reference to China’s island reclamation or to the ruling itself in the Asean Chairman’s Statement released last April, on the back of President Duterte’s conciliatory policy toward Beijing.

This time, the bloc failed to release its joint communiqué on Saturday evening as scheduled, reportedly deadlocked on essentially the same issue.

Vietnam, which has had clashes with China over fishing and exploitation rights in its own claimed waters, was reported to have wanted tougher wording to directly address the elephant in the room, but Cambodia stood squarely against it. (In July 2012, with Cambodia as chair, the meeting of foreign ministers was marked by conflict and failed to produce a joint communiqué.)

The impasse threatened to produce another oblique statement intended to somehow placate all parties — even China, which is strictly not a party in the grouping, but whose economic and military might figures heavily in the region’s calculations.

But Vietnam’s position appeared to have prevailed. In an 11 o’clock turnaround, the foreign ministers finally hammered out a communiqué that, for a change, unmistakably called Beijing out for its island-grabbing, and the rapid transformation of these islands into military outposts.

China has built seven islands so far in the disputed waters; three of these are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars, according to a Reuters report.

The ministerial meeting also announced the adoption of a negotiating framework that would advance a 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an agreement that has largely been ignored, especially by China.

Now Beijing appears to have rediscovered interest in the code, pushing for talks on an outline for its implementation—though far short of what Vietnam wants, which is to make the document legally binding on all claimant-nations, including China.

Observers fear it’s a ploy for something else: to simply buy China more time to solidify its grip on this vital area. Asean might want to wise up to its giant neighbor’s long game.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/106191/turnaround-in-asean#ixzz4pB18EscY
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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Recap of ASEAN Discussions in the Philippines

August 8, 2017
 
Foreign Ministers, from left, South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha, Japan’s Taro Kono, Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, China’s Wang Yi and Singapore’s Vivian Balakrishnan walk after a family photo before the 18th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting, part of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Manila, Philippines, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. Mohd Rasfan/Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines hosted a series of meetings of foreign ministers from Southeast Asia and the region, with the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea topping their agenda.

Here are the key developments and events surrounding the ASEAN summitry in Manila:

 

The stronger-than-expected communique

In a surprise move, ASEAN ministers issued a strong statement indirectly criticizing Beijing’s island-building and military-fortification activities in the South China Sea, defying Chinese stance on the issue.

In the bloc’s joint communique issued Sunday evening, the region’s top diplomats said that “land reclamations and activities in the area” have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine the peace and stability of the region.

The statement also made a vague reference to a UN arbitral ruling last year that invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims over the area.

The ministers also underscored the importance of “non-militarization and self-restraint” in the region to avoid further complicating and escalating tensions in the South China Sea.

The sea code outline

Although Southeast Asian nations and China agreed to adopt on Sunday a framework they could use to negotiate a code of conduct in the South China Sea, critics said that the outline’s failure to make the pact legally binding and to have a resolution mechanism made its effectiveness questionable.

The outline also provides a wide latitude to the negotiating parties which could result in disputes.

The Philippines and Vietnam still prefer the pact coming out of the framework to be legally enforceable, something Beijing would not assent to.

Critics say that China’s sudden interest in the talks for the code was just a ploy to elongate negotiation as it consolidates its activities in the South China Sea where it has built man-made islands and installed military facilities.

It also comes as the intentions of the US in the region become uncertain under the administration of US President Donald Trump. This, analysts say, weakens the negotiating muscle of the region.

The Chinese agenda for South China Sea talks

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gestures as he answers questions from reporters after attending the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila, Philippines, on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. AP/Aaron Favila

China said on Sunday that talks on a code of conduct in the South China Sea may start within the year if “outside parties” would not cause a major disruption.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said that the start of the negotiations on the pact that would aim to prevent clashes in the disputed waters may be announced by the leaders of China and the ten member-states of ASEAN in their summit in the Philippines in November if their conditions were met.

Apparently referring to the US, Wang said that one of the conditions for the start of the talks would be non-interference by “outside parties.”

The strong words of US, Australia, Japan on the South China Sea

The foreign ministers of the US, Japan and Australia on Monday called for a halt on land reclamation and military activities in the South China Sea.

Secretary of State Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan’s chief diplomat Taro Kono also called on the parties to the dispute to comply with the United Nations arbitral ruling last year that invalidated most of China’s expansive claims in the area.

They also voiced their concerns over the maritime dispute where $3.37 trillion worth of trade passes through each year.

They said in a joint statement: “The ministers voiced their strong opposition to coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions.”

Freedom of navigation and overflight, and internationally lawful uses of the seas should also be respected, according to the three top envoys.

Their statement on the issue was stronger than the stand of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, many of whom rely heavily on China for trade and investments.

ASEAN’s strong rebuke of North Korea

The Southeast Asia’s top diplomats slammed North Korea over its launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles in July and told Pyongyang to observe its obligations arising from United Nations resolution.

The foreign ministers of the 10 member-states of ASEAN said that the North’s tests of missiles capable of reaching mainland United States were a threat to the peace and stability in the region and the world.

The isolated country should also comply with its obligations in “relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions,” the ministers said in the final draft of their joint communique.

The bloc also expressed its support for the peaceful denuclearization of the two Koreas, which technically remain at war with each other, and initiatives that would improve the relationship between Seoul and Pyongyang aimed at establishing peace on the peninsula.

The ‘no’ from North Korea

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, arrives for the closing ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and its 50th Grand Celebration Tuesday Aug. 8, 2017 at the Philippine International Convention Center in suburban Pasay City, Philippines. Finding his seat in foreground is Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. AP/Bullit Marquez

The North Korean foreign minister on Monday rejected putting their nuclear and missiles program on the negotiating table after the United Nations Security Council agreed on a sweeping set of sanctions on Pyongyang.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said that his country would not use its nuclear weapons on any country “except the US.” He said that this would change only if another country joined the Americans in an action against Pyongyang.

He added that the North was ready to give Washington “a severe lesson with its nuclear strategic force.” He also said that the responsibility over the tensions on the Korean Peninsula lies with Washington.

ALSO READ: North Korea to ASEAN: Distinguish danger of nuclear issue vs ‘America First’ policy

The human rights-less meeting between Duterte, Tillerson

U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson, left, chats with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during the former’s courtesy call at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. AP/Bullit Marquez

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday dismissed media questions about his government’s human rights record and the American concern over this.

Instead, Duterte and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson focused on the alliance between the two countries and the North Korean missile and nuclear arms program. Tillerson is the most senior Trump administration official to date who has met with Duterte.

“Human rights, son of a bitch,” Duterte said. “Policemen and soldiers have died on me. The war now in Marawi, what caused it but drugs? So human rights, don’t go there.”

The Philippine president said that he shouldn’t be questioned about human rights considering the serious challenges he was facing.

The commitment against terror

The ministers of the members of ASEAN renewed their commitment to fight terrorism and prevent the so-called Islamic State from establishing a foothold in the region.

“In line with this, we reaffirmed our commitment to fight ISIS and other violent extremist groups to effectively curb their spread, as well as preventing them from gaining a foothold in the region,” the communiqué of the group read, referring to IS by its variant.

The top diplomats of the region also reiterated the need for a comprehensive, just and sustainable solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict in order to achieve peace and stability in West Asia (Middle East). — Video by Efigenio Toledo IV

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/08/1726110/all-eyes-manila-what-happened-asean-meetings

All 10 member-states of ASEAN agreed to push for a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea

August 7, 2017
Foreign Ministers, from left, South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha, Japan’s Taro Kono, Philippines’ Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, China’s Wang Yi and Singapore’s Vivian Balakrishnan walk after a family photo before the 18th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting, part of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Manila, Philippines, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. Mohd Rasfan/Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — The foreign ministers of the 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to push for a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The statement comes in response to the call of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono to halt land reclamations and military actions in the South China Sea.

The top diplomats of the US, Australia and Japan also called on their Southeast Asian counterparts to negotiate a legally binding COC in the disputed waters.

READ: US, Australia, Japan want coercive acts at sea to be stopped

“I believe the secretary general, in an interview a couple of days ago, mentioned that there was, in fact, an agreement among the ASEAN foreign ministers that the preference is for a legally binding code of conduct,” DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said in a media briefing.

He was referring to Lê Lương Minh, secretary-general of the ASEAN.

Bolivar also stressed the position of the Philippines that it prefers a legally binding code of conduct, on the condition that it has to be effective.

“Meaning adhered to and observed by all parties,” he said.

The three countries also urged ASEAN to comply with an arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s claim over the so-called nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.

On the other hand, Beijing said that the negotiations on the code of conduct among ASEAN heads of state and China may start if “outside parties” will not interfere.

“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,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

RELATED: Analyst: China conditions for sea code talks vague, unfair

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/08/1726300/dfa-asean-ministers-agreed-legally-binding-sea-code

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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

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North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Australia, Japan, U.S. call for South China Sea code to be legally binding

August 7, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 7, 2017 / 4:29 AM

MANILA (Reuters) – Australia, Japan and the United States on Monday urged Southeast Asian nations and China to ensure that a South China Sea code of conduct they have committed to draft will be legally binding.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China should establish a set of rules that were “legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law,” the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a statement following a meeting in Manila.

They also urged China and the Philippines to abide by last year’s international arbitration ruling on the South China Sea.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

US, Australia, Japan Want Coercive Acts at Sea to Be Stopped

August 7, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — The U.S., Australian and Japanese foreign ministers have called for a halt on land reclamations and military actions in the South China Sea and compliance with an arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s vast claims to the disputed waters.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan’s new top diplomat, Taro Kono, also called on their Southeast Asian counterparts Monday to rapidly negotiate a legally binding maritime code with China aimed at preventing an escalation of conflicts in one of the world’s busiest waterways.

Their remarks, which are aimed at taming aggression in the disputed sea, are considerably stronger than a joint statement of concern issued by their counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-nation bloc whose economies depend heavily on China.

ASEAN calls for South China Sea non-militarization

August 7, 2017
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Southeast Asian foreign ministers yesterday called for non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states in the South China Sea. File

MANILA, Philippines — Southeast Asian foreign ministers yesterday called for non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states in the South China Sea.

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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, including those mentioned in the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” the ministers declared in a delayed joint communiqué.

The statement said the ministers discussed extensively the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some of them on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.

They reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea.

They also cited the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The ministers also underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety.

They welcomed the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China and are encouraged by the conclusion and adoption of the framework of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which will facilitate the work for the conclusion of an effective COC on a mutually agreed timeline.

“In view of this positive momentum, we reaffirmed our readiness to begin the substantive negotiation on the COC and tasked our senior officials to start the negotiation on the COC with China. We recognized the benefits that would be gained from having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity,” the statement said.

Pending the early adoption of an effective COC, the ministers stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence among all parties.

ASEAN welcomed the successful testing of the MFA-to-MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs-to Ministry of Foreign Affairs) hotline to manage maritime emergencies in the South China Sea.

Beijing looks forward to the operationalization of the joint statement on the observance of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea in the South China Sea.

“In our view, these are practical measures that could reduce tensions, and the risks of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation,” the statement said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/08/07/1726081/asean-calls-south-china-sea-non-militarization

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China sets conditions for start of talks on South China Sea code of conduct

August 6, 2017
 / 06:41 PM August 06, 2017
 China’s foreign minister Wang Yi

MANILA, Philippines — China’s top diplomat said Sunday that talks for a nonaggression pact aimed at preventing clashes from erupting in the disputed South China Sea may start this year if “outside parties” don’t cause a major disruption.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the start of talks for a “code of conduct” in the disputed waters may be announced by the heads of state of China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations when they meet at an annual summit in the Philippines in November if Beijing’s conditions are met.

Wang said at a news conference in Manila that those conditions include non-interference by “outside parties,” apparently referring to the United States, which Beijing has frequently accused of meddling in what it says is an Asian dispute that should be resolved only by the countries involved.

China’s territorial disputes in the strategic and potentially oil- and gas-rich waterway with five other governments intensified after it built islands in disputed waters and reportedly started to install a missile defense system on them, alarming rival claimant states, the U.S. and other Western governments.

READ: Disagreements over sea feud, North Korea delay Asean communique

“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.

The situation in the South China Sea should also be “generally stable,” he said.

VIDEO : China urges North Korea to stop missile tests, resume talks

“China and ASEAN have the ability 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,” he said.

China had long been perceived as delaying negotiations with ASEAN for the maritime code to allow it to launch and complete its land reclamations in the South China Sea without any such regulatory restrictions. Wang’s mention of the vague conditions can allow China to delay or halt the planned talks for any reason.

While China has had robust economic ties with Southeast Asia, a diverse region of more than 600 million people with a combined GDP of $2.4 trillion, both have tangled for years over the territorial conflicts. Tensions flared alarmingly in recent years over China’s island-building works in one of the most disputed regions, where U.S. naval and aerial patrols have challenged Beijing’s claims.

ASEAN foreign ministers failed to promptly issue a joint communique after their annual gathering in Manila on Saturday due to a disagreement on the wordings of chapters pertaining to the territorial rifts and concern over North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile tests, two Southeast Asian diplomats told The Associated Press on Sunday.

One of the diplomats said wordings on the South China Sea issue to be included in the communique had not yet been finalized, with Vietnam reiterating its position that ASEAN should cite regional concerns over China’s land reclamation and construction of its man-made islands.

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

READ: China urges North Korea to stop missile tests, resume talks

Although it’s not an ASEAN member, China can exert its influence on allies like ASEAN member Cambodia to reject any move it deems inimical to its interest. An unwieldy bloc of democracies, monarchies and authoritarian regimes, the regional grouping decides by consensus, meaning just one member state can shoot down any proposal.

Another diplomat said Cambodia also expressed concern over the ASEAN foreign ministers’ issuance of a separate statement criticizing North Korea’s two ICBM tests last month.

Cambodia wanted its sentiments on the Korean Peninsula better reflected in the ASEAN foreign ministers’ joint communique, stalling its issuance Saturday, the diplomat said, adding that Cambodia’s stance may have been influenced by China.

Both Cambodia and North Korea are China’s allies.

Washington has asked countries, including the ASEAN member states, to help isolate North Korea diplomatically to force it to stop provocative acts. While China agrees with sanctions on the North, Wang, the Chinese Foreign Minister, said Sunday that they should be aimed at forcing Pyongyang to return to negotiations aimed at taming its nuclear ambitions.

“Sanctions are needed, but by no means the ultimate goal,” Wang, who was in Manila for the talks with the ASEAN ministers, said in a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry’s website.

A Philippine government spokesman, Robespierre Bolivar, had said the ministers’ joint communique would be issued promptly on Saturday. He took back the announcement later and said the communique may be made public with other statements on Monday or Tuesday.

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/159395/china-sets-conditions-for-start-of-talks-on-sea-feud-code-south-china-sea-maritime#ixzz4ozBDva1s
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ASEAN stresses self-restraint, non-militarization in South China Sea

August 6, 2017
ASEAN foreign ministers walk for the opening ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. They are, from left, Retno Marsudi of Indonesia, Anifah Aman of Malaysia, Alan Peter Cayetano of the Philippines, Vivian Balakrishnan of Singapore, Pham Binh Minh of Vietnam, ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh and Lim Jock Seng of Brunei. AP/Bullit Marquez, Pool, file
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MANILA, Philippines — Foreign ministers in Manila over the weekend emphasized self-restraint in the South China Sea and reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to a Code of Conduct in the region.
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In a joint communiqué of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers’ Meeting released Sunday night, ministers said they had “discussed extensively” matter related to the sea, parts of which are subject to maritime disputes.
They said they “took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”
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The communiqué did not mention China, which has been documented to have undertaken large-scale reclamation and improvement works on man-made islands in the South China Sea.
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The ministers also said that they reaffirmed the need “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”
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The Philippines brought its dispute with China to arbitration in 2013 and a Hague-based court ruled in 2016 that China’s nine-dash-line claim has no basis in international law. The arbitral tribunal also said that China violated Philippine rights by barring access to Scarborough Shoal — also called Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal by the Philippines — a traditional fishing ground for Filipino and Vietnamese fishers.
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Aside from the Philippines, ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and and Vietnam have claims over parts of the South China Sea.
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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, including those mentioned in the [Declaration of Conduct] that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” the joint communiqué also said.
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Among the principles of the 2002 Declaration are a commitment for freedom of navigation and overflight in the region, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and “refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”
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Under the DOC, dispute resolution will be through “friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned,” a position that China stressed in late July by telling ASEAN countries to keep regional outsiders from interfering in disputes.
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Moving closer to a Code of Conduct

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“We warmly welcomed the improving cooperation between ASEAN and China and are encouraged by the conclusion and adoption of the framework of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which will facilitate the work for the conclusion of an effective COC on a mutually-agreed timeline,” the foreign ministers said.
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Ministers they are ready to begin talks on the Code of Conduct, a process that is expected to start this year. They said they have tasked senior officials to start negotiating on the Code of Conduct with China.
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Earlier Sunday, China Foreign Minister Wang Yi said ministers had agreed on a three-step process for the development of the Code of Conduct.
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“By the end of this month during the joint working group meeting on the implementation of code of conduct, all the parties will discuss the thinking, principle and plan for the next stage consultation of the code of conduct and we will build a consensus between China and ASEAN countries with necessary appropriations for that,” he said.
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Wang however said there would be a precondition for the official start of the code of conduct consultations.
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“When the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, if there is no major disruption from outside parties,” he said.
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ASEAN overcomes communique impasse, urges non-militarisation in South China Sea

August 6, 2017

Reuters

August 6, 2017

MANILA (Reuters) – Southeast Asian foreign ministers ended an impasse on Sunday over how to address disputes with China in the South China Sea, issuing a communique that called for militarization to be avoided and noting concern about island-building.

The South China Sea has long been the most divisive issue for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), with China’s influence looming large over its activities. Some countries are wary about the possible repercussions of defying Beijing by taking a stronger stand.

ASEAN failed to issue the customary statement on Saturday, over what diplomats said was disagreement about whether to make oblique references to China’s rapid expansion of its defense capabilities on artificial islands in disputed waters.

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and suit
Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

China is sensitive to even a veiled reference by ASEAN to its seven reclaimed reefs, three of which have runways, missile batteries, radars and, according to some experts, the capability to accommodate fighter jets.

The communique late on Sunday takes a stronger position than an earlier, unpublished draft, which was a watered-down version of one issued last year in Laos.

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

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”.

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

Several ASEAN diplomats said that among the members who pushed for a communique that retained the more contentious elements was Vietnam, which has competing claims with China over the Paracel and Spratly archipelago and has had several spats with Beijing over energy concessions.

Another diplomat, however, said there was no real disagreement on the contents of the communique and stressed that the initial draft was seen by some members as weak.

Also on Sunday the foreign ministers of ASEAN and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, a move they hailed as progress but seen by critics as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its maritime power.

Reporting by Martin Petty and Manuel Mogato; Editing by Gareth Jones