Tuesday, 24 October, 2017

China says hopes North and South Korea can make contact soon

Asean countries willing to have talks with China to avoid clashes UPDATE 1-China set for easy ride from ASEAN on disputed South China Sea
Juana Turner | 09 August, 2017, 00:16

Critics, however, say the framework serves only as a brief outline of previously agreed principles and fails to mention concerns over China's newly built islands or an arbitration ruling a year ago that invalidated Beijing's claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

The ministers of the 10-member group expressed "grave concerns over the escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula" following Pyongyang's ballistic missile launches in July. The leaders of the ASEAN countries would be meeting this Sunday in Philippine's capital Manila to discuss a wide variety of issues.

"We strongly call upon (North Korea) as a participant of the ASEAN Regional Forum, to positively contribute to realise the ARF vision to maintain the Asia-Pacific as a region of lasting peace, stability, friendship and prosperity", said the ASEAN ministers meeting in Manila.

The case, brought against China by the Philippines, seemed like a turning point in China's disputes with a host of regional players, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. The sea is strategically important because it is home to a third of the world's shipping lanes.

Reacting to criticisms that the code may end up as a toothless document, Mr Wang said: "As long as we put our signatures on them, we have to take on the responsibility and should abide by them".

"The atmosphere of this year is different from the past", Wang said. ASEAN and China plan to begin discussions on formulating the code this year.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (fifth from left) with his Asean counterparts at the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the Asean-China Centre in Manila yesterday.

"In accordance with ASEAN's regulations, at this meeting, ASEAN and Chinese foreign ministers will consider the adoption of a framework agreement on the COC in the East Sea, which had been finalised at the ASEAN-China Senior Officials' Meeting on the COC consultations", she said.

He stressed that China supports ASEAN to continue to play a central role in regional cooperation.

The agreed two-page framework is broad and leaves wide scope for disagreement, urging a commitment to the "purposes and principles" of UNCLOS, for example, rather than adherence.

Moreover, Ando told reporters that Japan is concerned with the building of large scale outpost within the South China Sea.

According to the foreign ministers, the framework will "facilitate the work for the conclusion of an effective COC on a mutually-agreed timeline".

"Vietnam is adamant, and China is effectively using Cambodia to champion its interests. But the Philippines is trying very hard to broker compromise language". It's not clear if the ministers will push for a legally binding code.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the ministers were divided over a United States proposal to suspend the North from the ASEAN Regional Forum, which will hold its annual meeting on Monday.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is attending the forum, skipped the gala dinner where the two ministers spoke but is expected - along with the 24 other top diplomats from region - to be in the same room as North Korea's representative at a session later Monday.

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