China, ASEAN agree on code of conduct framework in South China Sea

The area, which has rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits, is claimed by four Asean countries - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

More than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea every year. Shortly after, it rejected an offer by Beijing to hold direct talks.

At the time, Philippine President Duterte bluntly stated that complaining about China's maritime activities was pointless because no one could pressure China into halting them - a similar, if less tactful, sentiment to the one expressed by Duterte's foreign secretary at Thursday's meeting.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday Chinese counterpart China Xi Jinping had warned him there would be war if Manila tried to enforce an arbitration ruling and drill for oil in a disputed part of the South China Sea. "We will fight you", Mr Duterte on Friday quoted Mr Xi as saying. "The strategic logic is very simple".

Carpio suggested that the country strengthen its ties with its defense alliances, particularly with the United States, since it is the only country with which the Philippines has a Mutual Defense Treaty.

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. It comes off the back of substantially larger promises of Chinese investment.

South China Sea. Source: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Wikipedia Commons.

"This is the goal of this bilateral consultation mechanism, to discuss issues that are contentious, while we pursue non-contentious issues in other fields", the journalist-turned-ambassador said.

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The shift by the Philippines has gathered speed under an unpredictable new White House, said Davies.

"There was no need to mention the arbitral ruling in the sections on the South China Sea".

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea (SCS), including the islands more than 800 miles from the Chinese mainland. In the works for upwards of 15 years, the Code of Conduct has until recently seemed unattainable due to perceived slow-walking by the Chinese. Beijing had long advocated a bilateral approach.

Philippines welcomed the completion of the drafting of the framework. China and ASEAN had planned to finalize a framework sometime in midyear but decided not to publish the new document at this time.

"Against the backdrop of economic globalization, China and ASEAN countries should continue making our regional rules to guide our own actions and protect our common interests", Liu said. "We have a community of nations that signed it".

It is understood the Joint Working Group working on the CoC will have its meeting in September in the Philippines. The Tribunal ruled that the Spratly Islands belongs to the Philippine. It has controlled the Paracel islands further west since 1974. He discussed it with Xi when they met in Beijing on Monday.

China denied earlier this year reports that it was considering building an environmental monitoring station there. Despite its vague terms, however, commentators say the finalization of the Code represents a diplomatic coup for the Chinese, "demonstrating that China and its neighbors can resolve their differences just fine without Washington's help".

However, he thinks it's unlikely China will pursue this given its successful and largely uncontested build up in the Spratlys - at least for now. China has not responded to Duterte's latest comment.

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