Reuters MANILA (Reuters) — China and Southeast Asian countries have made progress in talks on a code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea, the Philippine acting foreign minister said on Tuesday.
China claims almost the entire waterway, through which about $5 trillion in seaborne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
“We have made good progress on coming up with a framework for a code on conduct with China,” Philippine Acting Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo said, adding the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China were more than halfway through identifying the contents.
“From a scale of 1-10, we are at the upper level. Remember, we were starting from zero in January. There have been a number of elements agreed and we would definitely have a framework on which to embark a serious negotiation on a code of conduct.”
Negotiators from China and ASEAN have met in Indonesia and Cambodia in the last two months to try to come up with a final draft, which could be approved ahead of the August meeting by Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Manila.
Manalo also said Manila would hold talks with Beijing next month to tackle “issues of concern regarding the South China Sea,” including China’s militarization of several man-made islands in the Spratly Islands.
The bilateral mechanism is one of two dialogues held by China with claimant states. The other is with Vietnam.
The United States, the Philippines and Vietnam have protested against China’s militarization of the Spratlys.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to discuss Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea when they meet on Thursday and Friday at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Taiwan to build 8 more subs
TAIPEI (Reuters) — Taiwan plans to build eight submarines to bolster its current fleet of four aging foreign-built vessels, a senior Taiwanese navy official said on Wednesday.
“In our indigenous submarine project, we hope to be able to make eight submarines,” Lee Tsung-hsiao, navy chief of staff, told lawmakers, confirming publicly for the first time the number of vessels being planned.
Cheng Wen-lon, chairman of state-controlled shipbuilder CSBC Corp Taiwan, which has been contracted to build the submarines, also told lawmakers that the initial design will be fully completed by early 2018.
Military and defense industry officials in Taiwan have said the first submarine is expected to go into operation within 10 years.
Lee’s comments come ahead of the first meeting between leaders of the United States and China this week that Taipei has fretted could harm its interest.
China regards democratic Taiwan as part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to take control of what it sees as a wayward province.