ASEAN, China set for South China Sea code talks

Meeting in Manila on Monday, the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China agreed to start negotiations for a proposed code of conduct on the South China Sea.

"Leaders of ASEAN and China leaders have agreed to start talks on the Code of Conduct based on the framework approved by the foreign ministers in August," said Robespierre Bolivar, spokesman for Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs, as quoted by Rappler, a Philippine-based online news portal.

Bolivar said Manila will issue a chairman's statement to reflect the agreement.

The disputed waters were among the issues discussed during the 20th ASEAN-China Summit, which is part of the 31st ASEAN summit and related summits chaired by the Philippines this year.

Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, including a cluster of islands, reefs, and atolls further south called the Spratlys. Other nations such as Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam have rival claims on the waters.

In August, foreign ministers of the ASEAN states and China agreed to formally endorse a framework for a code of conduct on the South China Sea that was said to "cement" the regional bloc's members' and Chinese commitments to negotiate a binding code to ease tensions in the disputed waters.

In a draft statement of the ASEAN-China Summit, leaders committed to fully implement the code of conduct to avoid escalating tensions as a result of complacency.

"While the situation is calmer now, we cannot take the current progress for granted," said the draft ASEAN Common Statement on ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations for the 20th ASEAN-China Summit.

"We, therefore, reiterate our commitment to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety," it added.

ASEAN member states leaders of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam are in Manila to attend the summit.
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