February 20, 2018

Asean ministers call on sea claimants to avoid militarization in communique

10 August 2017, 01:53 | Rufus Hill

ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meet in Philippines

ASEAN Secretariat Le Loung Minh Laos Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and Myanmar Minister of State of Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin watch during the Welcome Dinner for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers

Ministerial meeting in the 50th Association of Southeast Asia Nations Regional Forum in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines, Sunday, Aug.6, 2017.

He added that China and ASEAN will continue to press ahead with the negotiations of the COC with full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), in the hope of establishing commonly recognized regional rules. "But as the chair, we're only here to preside and not to command", Mr Cayetano told reporters.

Critics say the outline of key principles is lopsidedly in China's favor and suspect that Beijing may have consented to it to divert protests as it tries to complete and fortify man-made islands in the South China Sea with a missile defense system.

Bolivar said the Philippines prefers a legally binding code of conduct but the consensus in ASEAN is that at the very least, the code that is still to be negotiated should be substantive and effective.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also arrived in Manila on Saturday evening.

Countries that have made competing claims over parts or all of the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea were the Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has in recent years expanded its presence in the sea by building the artificial islands, which are capable of holding military bases.

"Frankly speaking, we were disappointed to hear your comments" at the East Asia Summit foreign ministers' meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told new Japanese counterpart Taro Kono, who had called on Beijing to respect the rule of global law regarding its military base construction in the South China Sea. She says the USA rejects any "moral equivalency" implied by that proposal. In 2016, an global court rejected China's bid to secure rights to more than 80 per cent of the South China Sea.

With the theme "Under one light, we are one ASEAN", the ceremony included a series of performances praising the friendship and solidarity of the 10 member states. The ministers noted the significance of the UNCLOS dispute settlement regime and the Tribunal's decision in discussions among parties in their efforts to peacefully resolve their maritime disputes in the SCS.

China had always been perceived as delaying negotiations with the association for the maritime code to allow it to launch and complete its land reclamations in the South China Sea without any such regulatory restrictions.

"It was a good outcome", Tillerson said of the Security Council vote. "It is China", Wang said.

While China had its own regional trade accord, the US-led pact had become the preferred agreement, with several nations that had missed out on the initial round of negotiations expressing interest in joining.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Manila Saturday in time for the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting. Wang added that the China- ASEAN strategic partnership has "entered a new stage of comprehensive development".

Moreover, he said that both sides were looking for new areas of cooperation, such as greater synergy between ASEAN's master plan for ASEAN connectivity and the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. This is to synchronize China's innovation-driven development strategy and ASEAN innovation-driven growth strategy. According to Wang, this is to leverage the respective strengths of China and ASEAN and to support each other's industrialization process.

China, likewise, is pushing for a joint statement on tourism cooperation to solidify the population support in social basis for cooperation.

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