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ASEAN, China Sign Draft Code of Conduct for South China Sea

May 20, 2017 (EIRNS)—The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China signed a framework agreement for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Meeting in Guizhou on Thursday, senior leaders from the ten ASEAN nations and China sets the parameters for a detailed agreement to be worked out later.

Agence France Presse said the draft described 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."

The Philippines, the ASEAN chairman this year, welcomed the finalization of the draft framework and noted that it was completed ahead of the mid-2017 goal set by ASEAN leaders and China. This followed by days President Duterte’s attendance at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing and his announcement that China, Vietnam and the Philippines were planning to set up joint exploration for gas and oil in the South China Sea.

ASEAN and China adopted a non-binding declaration of conduct in 2002, but the advance to a code of conduct was stalled as disputes over sovereignty issues led to the Philippines taking China to the Court in The Hague under the influence of the Obama Administration.

The Philippines and China also this week held a consultative meeting on bilateral concerns in the South China Sea, signing a statement that said the two countries

"will address their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."

The statement did not mention of the Hague ruling against China, which had refused to participate in the fixed trial nor to honor the ruling.