Talks on South China Sea COC in positive direction: Anifah

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Duterte said he discussed it with Xi when the two met in Beijing on Monday, and got a firm, but friendly warning. “But if you force the issue we’ll go to war'”.

India and Singapore on Thursday began a naval exercise in the contentious South China Sea, to which Beijing and other littoral countries have overlapping claims.

Reuters notes that some of ASEAN’s representatives believe China is playing along with the draft framework merely to “buy time for Beijing to wrap up construction activities”, at which point Chinese ownership of everything Beijing covets in the region would be a fait accompli, despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruling against Chinese claims of sovereignty past year.

Friday’s statement reiterated that the two countries will address their territorial and jurisdictional disputes “by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of worldwide law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”.

The ruling last July by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague voided China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea and declared China had infringed on the traditional rights of Philippine fishing boats in the area. But China’s “nine-dash line” that signifies its expansive claims to the sea overlaps with Indonesia’s internationally recognized exclusive economic zone.

China had refused to abide by the decision since there is no legal mechanism for enforcing the ruling.

The once-strained relations between the Philippines and China have been on the mend since Mr Duterte took office on June 30 past year. He has drawn closer to China, in the hopes of attracting billions of dollars in Chinese loans and infrastructure investments.

The Association of South East Asian Nations and China on Thursday finished a draft framework for negotiating a code of conduct, despite regional scepticism about whether Beijing will commit to rules that could restrain its maritime ambitions.

Beijing said it was not opposed to such exchanges as long as regional peace was not disturbed.

But China vowed to ignore the ruling and warned the Philippines against trying to use the verdict as leverage. ASEAN has always been divided over the issue of the South China Sea, with some of the non-claimant states in particular (with the notable exception of Indonesia and Singapore) having expressed reservations about pushing back too hard against Beijing on the issue.

China and the Philippines are trying out a new system to help them solve territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

“Many, many countries wanted it to be legally binding. And the countries that do not comply, will they respect that court?” he asked reporters.

But for now, he said, in the absence of a world court, “let us start with it being binding”. “We have a community of nations that signed it”, he added.

In 2002, ASEAN member states and China agreed to a document known as the “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea“. Romana, both sides reiterated their commitment to cooperate and to find ways forward to strengthen mutual trust and confidence.

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