China to host meeting with Asean execs on sea conduct
BANGKOK – The Chinese government will host a meeting with members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to tackle the creation of a framework on the Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
Speaking to reporters, Foreign Affairs Acting Secretary Enrique Manalo said the meeting would be attended by senior officials of Asean members.
“China will be hosting a meeting in May and hopefully, maybe by that time, we will have made significant progress on the framework,” Manalo told reporters in a press briefing here.
Manalo said China was “very interested in getting a framework [done].”
“Now, the purpose of the Code is to see how we can manage our disputes carefully. Not to raise tensions, not to escalate tensions, and that’s the whole idea of a code. So all countries, even though we may have some disputes, we have to behave and deal with each other in a way that doesn’t lead to conflict but rather promotes cooperation,” he said.
Manalo said it was China which mentioned the importance of coming up with a framework this year.
“So I think that’s also a significant development,” he said.
“The hope of everyone is that by the time we get to the meeting in May, the senior officials in the Asean-China DOC may be able to already have at least a preliminary agreement on the framework,” he added.
Manalo said the guiding elements of the DOC “would be how to promote cooperation and how to de-escalate tensions even in the light of perhaps existing disputes.”
“And maybe, once that’s all clear, once we have a code, we may actually now be in a position to actually discuss how we can settle the disputes,” he said.
In 2002, Asean and China signed a DOC on the South China Sea but a legally-binding document to manage maritime disputes has yet to be approved.
During their bilateral meeting here, President Rodrigo Duterte and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha agreed to push for the completion of the framework DOC this year as the Philippines hosts the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit in November.
“Both sides emphasized the need for the full and effective implementation of the declaration of conduct of parties in the South China Sea and expressed determination to complete the framework of the Code of Conduct in 2017,” Duterte said in a joint statement with PM Prayut.
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