China and ASEAN Agree to Draft Code of Conduct in South China Sea

China and ASEAN Agree to Draft Code of Conduct in South China Sea

The air of unrest around the disputed water territory in the South China Sea is anticipated to subside, with China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) coming down to the table to discuss the same. On May 18, 2017, agreed to work on a framework of a code of conduct to prevent mishaps and incidents over the water body of the South China Sea.

The South China sea is a big subject for disputes due to its rich oil and gas deposits. This makes it one of Asia’s most potent military flashpoints. In recent years, China has constructed artificial islands supporting military facilities in the region suggesting supremacy over the waters. This has provoked great discontent among other claimants, including the US, as navigation and overhead flights became endangered.

China and the ASEAN members have been trying to solve this problem since 2000. However, China’s reluctance to rescind its aim of capturing all islands over the waters has slowed the process down. The countries have been following a speared document called the ‘Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea’ which present new ways to stabilize the trust between the countries and confidence in each other, maintaining mutual respect.

The Code of Conduct in the South China Sea hence marks a monumental step in creating a semblance of fair use of the disputed waters. The draft is to be presented to the Chinese and ASEAN foreign ministers by August this year. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and Philippines ambassador Jose Santago Chito Santa Romana were to meet separately. According to Romana, “Generally, the situation has eased in terms of tensions between the Philippines and China; it does not mean the differences have disappeared. As (Duterte) told President Xi (Jinping), there will still be problems, but we are willing to discuss the issues with the Chinese side and he is optimistic that the bilateral negotiations and bilateral dialogue is the way to go.”

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