South China Sea talks see agreement on negotiations

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FOREIGN MINISTERS of Asean and China have agreed to accept a “single text” to negotiate the code of conduct on the contentious South China Sea issue, according to diplomats of both sides.

Members of Asean have been at loggerheads with China over the territorial rights in the South China Sea. Tensions and clashes have occurred in recent years after China began militarisation of the sea, notably in the Spratly Islands. Some ministers – at their recent annual meeting in Singapore – raised concerns about the issue, notably the militarisation, Thailand’s Asean Affairs Departments director-general Suriya Chindawongse said. The Philippines and Vietnam are at the forefront of the conflict and have occasionally faced up to their giant neighbour. In 2013 the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in favour of the Philippines, rejecting China’s claim of historical rights over the territories in the sea. Beijing dismissed the ruling, but showed an intention to solve the issue with Manila on a bilateral basis.

Asean and China signed a non-binding Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002 but the document failed to prevent conflict and tension. Both sides are in the process of drawing up a code of conduct (COC) as a legally binding instrument to control the behaviour of countries in the contentious sea.No tangible results While Beijing wants to see the effective and full implementation of the DOC, significant progress to establish negotiation ground-rules for the COC has been made in recent years. “For the first time both sides have agreed to have a single negotiation text,” Suriya said, noting that previously every stakeholder had their own text for negotiation. He said that the process would take time to reach a conclusion and the COC is not an instrument to settle the territorial dispute. That issue would be settled on a bilateral basis. Since the COC has not yet materialised, China and Asean countries will continue to fully and effectively implement the DOC and endeavour to reach a COC at an early date, said China’s Ambassador to Asean, Huang Xilian.

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/asean-plus/30351090

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