China president wants closeness with ASEAN nations

13 August, 2017, 21:25 | Author: Leticia Walters
  • No South China Sea trade-off for economic gains, Philippines says

The United States has criticized China's construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement. Now that an agreement has been reached, Beijing seems still to have the upper hand.

"When the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, and if there is no major disruption from outside parties as the precondition, then we will consider during the November leaders' meeting - we will jointly announce - the official start of the [code of conduct] conversation", Wang told reporters after meeting with his Southeast Asian counterparts, who were in Manila ahead of the ASEAN Regional Forum on August 7.

The documents detailing the new framework have not been distributed to the public due to the sensitive provisions they contain, and when asked by journalists about their contents, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was evasive, saying: "we don't want to prejudge the result of those negotiations". "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. It is easier to have binding rather than legally binding.

Further complicating matters is the fact that ASEAN remains divided on the South China Sea issue.

Bloomberg reported that "China saw Vietnam as pushing for" language critical of China in the code of conduct, so the Chinese foreign minister cancelled a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart "at the last minute".

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals.

Cayetano admitted that the Philippines was among the countries that did not want to include criticism on China's land reclamation and militarisation in the Spratlys in the joint communiqué issued by Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers after their meeting in Manila earlier this week.

A joint statement signed by the three countries foreign ministers said that the framework should establish rules that are consistent with global law, and they called on ASEAN and China to abide by the United Nations -back Court ruling in Hague which invalidated China's ownership claim of majority of the South China Sea. "If you go back in the past just to scold, it's regressive", he said.

China's foreign minister said over the weekend that talks for a long-sought code of conduct in the South China Sea, first mooted in 2002, may finally start this year if "outside parties" don't cause a major disruption.

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