Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano greets Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh during a reception for the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay city, metro Manila, Philippines August 5, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Bullit Marquez/Pool
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the adoption of the framework created a foundation for negotiations that could start this year.
Foreign ministers of Southeast Asia and China adopted on Sunday a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea, a move they hailed as progress.
The framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven manmade islands in disputed waters, three of which are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.
All parties say the framework is only an outline for how the code will be established. It is not legally binding and enforceable; neither does it have a dispute resolution mechanism.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the adoption of the framework created a solid foundation for negotiations that could start this year, if “the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and on the premise that there is no major interference from outside parties.”
He told reporters there had been “really tangible progress” so there was “a need to cherish momentum on the South China Sea”.
Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the strategic waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), some of which have sparred for years over what they see as China’s disregard for their sovereign rights and its blocking of fishermen and energy exploration efforts.
Beijing insists its activities are for defence purposes, in areas it considers its waters. Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines, however, all claim some or all of the South China Sea and its myriad shoals, reefs and islands.
Robespierre Bolivar, foreign ministry spokesman of host Philippines, said the adoption of the framework symbolized the commitment to creating a “substantive and effective” code.