News Worms
News Worms


US, Japan, Australia Urge Binding Code for South China Sea

US, Japan, Australia Urge Binding Code for South China Sea

The contending states should clarify their claims peacefully in accordance with a 1982 maritime treaty and global law, according to the three, who met on the sidelines of annual meetings of Asia-Pacific foreign ministers in Manila, including those from China and Russian Federation.

The ASEAN foreign ministers and their Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Sunday adopted a framework for negotiating a code of conduct to defuse tensions in the sea.

"ASEAN set aside the tribunal ruling, didn't complain about continued Chinese militarization of the South China Sea, watered down its joint statements, and basically wasted a year, all so they could reiterate the same principles they already agreed to in the declaration on conduct 15 years ago", Poling said prior to Sunday's announcement.

China insists that a much-delayed code of conduct between it and ASEAN members over the disputed sea must not be legally binding, a demand to which Southeast Asian countries have so far acquiesced.

Four ASEAN member states - Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, have claims in the waters that compete with China's.

But in an oblique reference to China's efforts to expand in the potentially mineral-rich sea region - such as through building artificial islands, air strips and other installations - they also noted "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 tribunal previous year ruled China's sweeping claims to the sea had no legal basis.

The role of the Philippines as 2017 chair of Asean has helped China keep a lid on discord.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said earlier that the ASEAN ministers were divided over a US proposal to remove North Korea from the ASEAN Regional Forum, a 27-member grouping that includes the North, along with its most bitter adversaries - South Korea, the United States and Japan.

A code of conduct has always been discussed, with both sides agreeing in 2002 on a loose set of guidelines known as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the region.

As an important regional organization, ASEAN has become a major force in promoting regional integration and maintaining regional peace and stability, Wang said.

"There's still no consensus", a diplomat said earlier during the weekend, according to Agence France-Presse.

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 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.

The Philippines scored a major legal victory previous year, when an worldwide tribunal in the Hague threw out most of China's territorial claims, but since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila has become less confrontational with Beijing.

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