Framework for S.China Sea code of conduct to be endorsed in ASEAN-China meet

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 31 2017 04:51 PM

China Coast Guard vessels patrol past Philippine fishing boats at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, April 5, 2017. Erik De Castro, Reuters

MANILA - Foreign ministers of Southeast Asian nations and China are expected to endorse the framework of the code of conduct in the South China Sea when they meet later this week, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said the framework of the code of conduct will be one of the expected outcome documents of the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting on Sunday.

"We expect them to endorse the framework during the ASEAN-China ministerial meeting," he said.

"We are very hopeful and confident that the framework of the code of conduct will be endorsed by the ministers of the ASEAN-China," he added. 

A joint working group is expected to start discussions on the actual code of conduct as soon as the approvals process for the framework of the code is finished.

The competing claims to the sea, believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits, have for decades made it one of Asia's potential military flashpoints.

Construction is shown on Subi Reef, in the Spratly Islands, the disputed South China Sea in this March 14, 2017 satellite image released by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to Reuters on March 27, 2017.

The issue has come to a head in recent years as China has pursued a strategy of building artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities in the region, provoking strong reactions from other claimants as well as the US, which argues Beijing's actions threaten freedom of navigation and overflight through the strategically vital waters. 

Senior officials from ASEAN and China in May agreed to a framework in the China's southwestern province of Guizhou, setting the parameters for a final, more detailed agreement yet to come.

A draft of the text describes the envisioned agreement as "a set of norms to guide the conduct of parties and promote maritime cooperation in the South China Sea," adding that it is "not an instrument to settle territorial disputes." - with Agence France-Presse