CHINA and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have agreed on a framework of a code of conduct (COC) for the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) but its implementation would depend on the fulfilment of certain conditions, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
“We have agreed upon and approved the COC framework and this is an important outcome of our joint effort,” Wang told reporters on Sunday in a press briefing on the second day of the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting.
The “important outcome”, however, comes with terms set by China before it agrees to start work on the actual code.
China proposed that the start of discussions should be based on “principle”.
It said that planning for the next stage of the COC should be taken up during the joint working group meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which would be by the end August.
Wang also said that China would consider having a joint announcement on the official start of the COC only when the situation in South China Sea was generally stable and if there would be no major disruptions from “outside parties”.
Wang said the Asean foreign ministers adopted the COC framework draft as China announced its intention to begin discussions on the code.
Before the briefing, Wang held bilateral talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
The Asean foreign ministers endorsed a framework for the COC on Saturday at the opening of the forum in Manila.
The Philippines, however, is reiterating its position that the code should be “legally binding”.
Vietnam, an Asean member and a claimant of the disputed territories in the South China Sea, also sought to insert tough language against China in the Asean statement that was scheduled to be released after the Southeast Asian ministers wrapped up their own talks on Saturday.
According to a copy of a draft obtained by Agence France-Presse, Vietnam lobbied for Asean to express serious concern over “construction” in the sea, in reference to China’s ramped up building of artificial islands in the disputed waters in recent years.
Like the Philippines, Vietnam also wanted Asean to insist in the statement that a planned code of conduct for the sea with China be “legally binding,” which Beijing opposes.
The lobbying occurred when the Asean foreign ministers held unscheduled and informal talks late on Friday night.