Diluted, non-binding statement
- ASEAN statement carefully worded to avoid angering China
- Framework for talks includes key clauses advocated by Beijing
- No mention of need to make code legally binding
Manila, August 6
China today scored a diplomatic coup in its campaign to weaken regional resistance against its sweeping claims to the South China Sea when Southeast Asian nations issued a diluted statement on the dispute and agreed to Beijing’s terms on talks.
After two days of tense meetings on the dispute in Manila, foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) issued a joint communique that diplomats involved said was carefully worded to avoid angering China.
The release of the statement came shortly after the ministers met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and agreed on a framework for conducting negotiations on the decades-long row that included key clauses advocated by China.
In what two diplomats involved said was another victory for Beijing today, ASEAN members declined to say in their joint statement that the hoped-for code of conduct with China be “legally binding”. Vietnam, the most determined critic of China, had insisted during two days of negotiations that ASEAN insist the code be legally binding, arguing otherwise it would be meaningless. — AFP
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