Talks to end tension in South China Sea to start in November

International News

This time around, the channels of diplomatic sources at the Asean foreign ministers now meeting in Manila, are abuzz about the strong dissenting voice of Vietnam urging the 10-member regional bloc to take a stronger stance against China's Asian hegemonic ambitions and creeping expansionism in disputed waters.

The issue of Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions has also been commented on by diplomatic sources, some of them likely from Asean member states, who claim that the Asean foreign ministers' statement on the developments in the Korean Peninsula are a rehash of what was issued last April.

'We strongly urge (North Korea) to immediately comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) acting Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said the framework COC is expected to be adopted at the ASEAN China Ministerial Meeting slated here on August 6.

The United States said it would also seek to build unified pressure on the North at the Manila event - known as the ASEAN Regional Forum.

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

Foreign ministers in Manila over the weekend emphasized self-restraint in the South China Sea and reaffirmed their countries' commitment to a Code of Conduct in the region.

Its sweeping claims overlap with those of ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.

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The communiqué did not mention China, which has been documented to have undertaken large-scale reclamation and improvement works on man-made islands in the South China Sea.

Since taking office previous year, Duterte has advocated closer ties with China as part of a more a independent foreign policy for the Philippines.

China has dramatically expanded its presence in the contested areas in recent years by building giant artificial islands that could be used as military bases, raising concerns it will eventually establish de facto control over the waters.

But, since President Rodrigo Duterte was elected past year, the Philippines has sought to downplay the dispute with China in return for billions of dollars in Chinese investments and aid.

Wang said the discussions have, so far, been friendly with broad consensus among the participants in preparation for the Leaders Summit in November.

"There is no consensus yet", the diplomat said, adding the drafting committee was tasked with continuing the negotiations on Saturday night.

"But of course the caveat there is, we have to have an effective Code of Conduct".

The Philippine president is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a visit to Manila this weekend to attend a regional meeting of top diplomats, he said.

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