Asean, China adopt framework for further talks on Code of Conduct
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi would not say whether the Code of Conduct in the heavily disputed South China Sea that would be negotiated between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) would be legally binding.
During a dialogue on Sunday, Aug. 6, in Manila, Asean foreign ministers and China formally adopted the “framework” for further negotiations on the Code of Conduct.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the foreign ministers further agreed to announce the start of the formal negotiations at the Asean Leaders’ Summit in November to be also held in Manila.
Asean’s top diplomats agreed to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s proposed three-step process, which involved officially adopting the framework, holding consultations in August, and announcing the start of the formal talks in November.
Facing reporters after his dialogue with the Asean foreign ministers on Sunday, Wang would not say whether the Code of Conduct would be legally binding on the claimant-nations to settle disputes peacefully and avoid violent conflicts.
“Regarding what kind of COC will be produced, that is up to the discussion by the 11 parties- China and Asean countries. We don’t want to prejudge the result of those negotiations,” Wang told reporters at the lobby stairs of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
He also mentioned a condition for Beijing to accept the announcement in November of the formal start of negotiations.
“When the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and if there is no major disruption from outside parties, then we will consider during the November leaders’ meeting, we will jointly announce the official start of the COC consultations,” Wang said.
In a separate press briefing, DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said the foreign ministers of Asean and China agreed on “three steps” beginning with the official adoption of the framework for the code of conduct.
“A meeting will be convened by the end of August to discuss the modalities for the actual Code of Conduct with the approved framework as the basis of the talks. The leaders of Asean and China are expected to announce the formal start of negotiations on the Code at their summit in November,” Bolivar said.
“Parallel to this, Asean and China will continue to cooperate on such practical maritime cooperation efforts including management and prevention of conflicts among parties through confidence building measures as well to prevent miscalculations on the ground,” he added.
He said the approved framework on the Code of Conduct would not be disclosed to the public due to “very sensitive” negotiations how to settle the disputes.
During the previous administration, the Philippines clashed with Beijing and its Aseab allies over China’s massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea, which falls within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
When he assumed office in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte shelved the country’s legal victory against China before a United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in favor of trade and loans from China. /atm
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