Asean, China to start talks on Code of Conduct of West PH Sea

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SOUTHEAST Asian Nation leaders and China will be announcing the start of negotiations on the Code of Conduct (CoC) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), according to a draft statement to be issued at the Summit.

“Pleased to announce that as a next step, Asean member states have agreed to officially commence negotiations with China on the COC,” the draft statement, a copy of which was obtained by media.

Foreign Affairs Spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said in a briefing that negotiations on the COC would be based on its framework that was adopted during the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting (ADMM) in August.

Top diplomats of the 10-member regional bloc and China adopted the framework of a COC on the West Philippine Sea, which would facilitate the work for the conclusion of an effective code on a mutually-agreed timeline.

Asean leaders attend the opening session of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila on November 13, 2017. AFP PHOTO

Bolivar also said the actual commencement of the negotiations would likely take place in 2018.

“Trust that we will continue this positive momentum and work towards a substantive and effective COC,” the draft statement said.

But leaders of the 10-member regional bloc have emphasized the importance of cooperation in maintaining peace, stability and freedom of navigation over the WPS.

Such freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the SCS should be in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“It is in our collective interest to avoid miscalculations that could lead to escalation of tensions,” the draft added.

The leaders also reiterated their commitment to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SCS (DOC), which would basically prevent all claimant countries from occupying any new feature in the contested waters.

“By managing the SCS (South China Sea) issue well, we can keep Asean-China relations on the current positive trajectory,” it said. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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