Tuesday, 17 October, 2017

ASEAN Foreign Ministers Express 'Grave Concern' over N. Korea

UN security council to bring fresh sanctions against North Korea over missiles UN council OKs sanctions measure that could cut $1B from North Korea each year
Theresa Hayes | 07 August, 2017, 02:04

The two drafts highlight China's growing regional clout at a time of uncertainty whether the new U.S. administration will try to check Beijing's assertiveness in the disputed waters.

"It's clear that China's pressure on individual ASEAN governments has paid off", Bill Hayton, a South China Sea expert and associate fellow with the Asia Programme at Chatham House in London, told AFP.

"We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states", it added.

But the latest text calls for avoidance of "unilateral actions in disputed features" instead.

China's rise is shadowing ASEAN celebrations.

But, since President Rodrigo Duterte was elected previous year, the Philippines has sought to downplay the dispute with China in return for billions of dollars in Chinese investments and aid.

Asean ties with the United States, under President Donald Trump, have been in flux, as questions linger over Washington's commitment to maritime security and trade in Asia, diminishing the grouping's bargaining power with Beijing.

Vietnam was reportedly urging other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansion in the South China Sea by making the framework on the code of conduct in the disputed territory legally binding.

The proposed COC is an agreement to ensure peace and stability in the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.

"We just want to release it as one package with the chairman's statement at the end of the cycle of meetings, either Monday or Tuesday", Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar told reporters. "I mean it's really very insubstantial anyway", Mr Batongbacal said, expressing doubt that Asean and China will be able to come up with anything concrete in the next few years. Wang said it was China that proposed this 3-step initiative.

The primary focus is whether the code will be legally binding.

Vietnam on Friday night sought to insert tough language against China in an ASEAN statement that was scheduled to be released after the Southeast Asian ministers wrapped up their own talks on Saturday. China has long denied interfering.

The document will be submitted to the ASEAN Summit in November.

Vietnam sought mention of respect for "sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction" not only in accordance with worldwide law, but more specifically, UNCLOS.

The 2002 document was more strongly worded against China.

The adoption of a framework for the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea reflected deepening trust among claimant states and will lay a foundation for longterm peace and stability in the region, Cambodian official and scholars said on Sunday.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in goods pass every year.

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