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Aquino seeks Asean action against China

/ 03:27 AM January 09, 2016

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III on Friday urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to step up the pressure on China to agree to a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

The President’s call coincided with a statement of concern by the United States Department of Defense over China’s recent landing of at least three planes on a contested reef in the South China Sea.

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Vietnam also issued its second rebuke in a week to Beijing over the landing of Chinese aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands which are claimed by Hanoi.

The Philippines, which also has claims on the contested reef, was exhausting all legal means to stop China’s aggressive conduct, including “pushing for a Code of Conduct between China and Asean,” President Aquino told reporters here following the inauguration of a 300-megawatt baseload power plant built and operated by the Aboitiz Power Corporation.

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“Can we put a little more pressure on China to sit down and agree on a binding code of conduct?” Mr. Aquino said.

China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines have overlapping claims on various parts of the sea.

Since 2010, China and the 10 members of Asean have been discussing a set of rules for rival claimants aimed at avoiding conflict.

Mr. Aquino said Asean representatives would be refining the elements of an Asean Code of Conduct next month.

Asean includes Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Burma (Myanmar).

Earlier, the Philippines brought its complaint against China’s maritime nine-dash line, which encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea, to the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.

China refused to participate in the UN arbitration process.

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President Aquino urged China to be “pragmatic” and recognize that a decision of the United Nations arbitral tribunal would be beneficial to all because it would clarify the entitlements and obligations of claimant countries in the South China Sea.

The Asean and China currently have a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed in 2002, which calls on all claimant countries to maintain the status quo. However, this has obviously been ignored.

China has been rapidly building artificial islands, including airstrips said to be capable of hosting military jets. The Philippines and Vietnam have in turn also tried to fortify their claims.

The Philippines is set to challenge China’s recent test flights on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, which is among the reefs and shoals the country claims as part of its territory.

Vietnam said the aircraft landings were “a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty and threaten peace and stability in the region.”

The two “test flights” on Wednesday followed an initial aircraft landing on Saturday, which prompted the first formal diplomatic complaint from Hanoi.

In a statement issued late Thursday, foreign ministry spokesperson Le Hai Binh said Vietnam has asked China “to immediately end similar acts…that expand and complicate disputes.” Nikko Dizon, AFP

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TAGS: Aboitiz Power Corporation, Aquino, ASEAN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Benigno Aquino III, Code of Conduct, Fiery Cross Reef, President Aquino, Spratly Islands
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