Philippines calls for ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between ASEAN, China on sea code


By Martin Petty and Manuel Mogato | MANILA Fri May 19, 2017 | 7:58am EDT

Southeast Asian nations and China should start with a “gentleman’s agreement” on the busy South China Sea waterway because no mechanism exists to legally enforce any deal, the Philippine foreign minister said on Friday.

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

Southeast Asian nations with claims in the South China Sea have long wanted to sign China up to a legally binding and enforceable code. It was unclear if that was mentioned in the framework draft, which has not been made public.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano played down the importance of a legally binding contract.

“If it’s legally binding, which court can the parties go to? And the countries that do not comply, will they respect that court?” he asked reporters.

“Let’s start with it being binding, gentlemen’s agreement. We have a community of nations that signed it.”

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in sea-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

Click tmsnrt.rs/2qyBNpf for graphic on overlapping claims in the South China Sea

Last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, in a case filed on maritime boundaries filed by the previous Philippine government in 2013.

A code of conduct is the key objective of a 2002 Declaration on Conduct, large parts of which China has ignored, particularly a commitment not to occupy or reclaim uninhabited features.

China has piled sand upon reefs to build seven islands in disputed parts of the Spratly archipelago. China has unfinished business there and has been transforming three of the reefs into what experts believe could be forward operating bases.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday described them as “some kind of armed garrison.”

The code framework would envisage a round-the-clock hotline and urge defense officials to find ways to follow the code, Chee Wee Kiong of Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Some ASEAN diplomats fear China’s sudden interest in completing it could be a strategy to buy time for Beijing to wrap up construction activities.

Experts say China wants to appear to engage ASEAN or bind its claimant states to a weak code at a time when U.S. policy on the South China Sea is in a state of flux.

One ASEAN diplomat said the latest draft did not mention any dispute settlement mechanism or sanctions for violations, but focused mostly on managing tension and building trust.

“We are very realistic and practical,” said the source, who declined to be identified. “We wanted first to pick the low hanging fruit. If we went straight to the contentious issues, we would not get to where we are now.”

The framework represented progress, but expectations should be realistic, said Jay Batongbacal, a Philippine academic and expert on the South China Sea.

“Given it’s been 15 years to get to a draft, I’m not really holding my breath,” he added.

Click tmsnrt.rs/2pSNmZq for graphic on Turf war on the South China Sea

(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: Reuters “Philippines calls for ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ between ASEAN, China on sea code”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


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


China and Southeast Asian countries agreed on Thursday to a framework for a long-mooted code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea, China’s foreign ministry said, as both sides step up efforts to ease tension in the strategic waterway.

China and the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had been hoping to agree on the framework this year, 15 years after committing to draft it.

After a meeting between Chinese and ASEAN officials in the Chinese city of Guiyang, China’s foreign ministry said the framework had been agreed upon, but gave no details of its contents.

It said the talks had been candid and deep and made positive achievements.

All parties “uphold using the framework of regional rules to manage and control disputes, to deepen practical maritime cooperation, to promote consultation on the code and jointly maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea,” China’s foreign ministry said.

The permanent secretary of Singapore’s foreign ministry, Chee Wee Kiong, said that what he called a “draft” framework would be submitted to a meeting of the foreign ministers of China and the ASEAN states in August in the Philippines.

“We hope to continue the positive momentum of consultation and make steady progress toward a substantive CoC based on consensus as directed by our leaders,” Chee said, in remarks also shown on Chinese state television.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, in comments carried on state television, said the framework was comprehensive and took into account the concerns of all sides.

But he called on others to stay out, apparently a coded message to the United States.

“We hope that our consultations on the code are not subject to any outside interference,” Liu said.

The U.S. State Department said it understood ASEAN and China had “not agreed on a text of a Code of Conduct, but on an initial framework describing how such a document might be structured”.

“As we have not seen that text, we would not be in a position to comment on it,” a spokeswoman, Anna Richey-Allen, said.

She said the United States had been calling for “an effective and meaningful” code of conduct compatible with international law, in particular the Law of the Sea Convention.

Some ASEAN diplomats have expressed concern about whether China is being sincere, or whether ASEAN has enough leverage to get China to commit to a set of rules.

Some Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as the United States, have expressed concern at what they see as China’s militarization of the South China Sea, including building air strips on man-made islands.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel and Leslie Adler)

Source: Reuters “China, ASEAN agree on framework for South China Sea code of conduct”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


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


China and Southeast Asian countries agreed on Thursday to a framework for a long-mooted code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea, China’s foreign ministry said, as both sides step up efforts to ease tension in the strategic waterway.

China and the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had been hoping to agree on the framework this year, 15 years after committing to draft it.

After a meeting between Chinese and ASEAN officials in the Chinese city of Guiyang, China’s foreign ministry said the framework had been agreed upon, but gave no details of its contents.

It said the talks had been candid and deep and made positive achievements.

All parties “uphold using the framework of regional rules to manage and control disputes, to deepen practical maritime cooperation, to promote consultation on the code and jointly maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea,” China’s foreign ministry said.

The permanent secretary of Singapore’s foreign ministry, Chee Wee Kiong, said that what he called a “draft” framework would be submitted to a meeting of the foreign ministers of China and the ASEAN states in August in the Philippines.

“We hope to continue the positive momentum of consultation and make steady progress toward a substantive CoC based on consensus as directed by our leaders,” Chee said, in remarks also shown on Chinese state television.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, in comments carried on state television, said the framework was comprehensive and took into account the concerns of all sides.

But he called on others to stay out, apparently a coded message to the United States.

“We hope that our consultations on the code are not subject to any outside interference,” Liu said.

The U.S. State Department said it understood ASEAN and China had “not agreed on a text of a Code of Conduct, but on an initial framework describing how such a document might be structured”.

“As we have not seen that text, we would not be in a position to comment on it,” a spokeswoman, Anna Richey-Allen, said.

She said the United States had been calling for “an effective and meaningful” code of conduct compatible with international law, in particular the Law of the Sea Convention.

Some ASEAN diplomats have expressed concern about whether China is being sincere, or whether ASEAN has enough leverage to get China to commit to a set of rules.

Some Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as the United States, have expressed concern at what they see as China’s militarization of the South China Sea, including building air strips on man-made islands.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel and Leslie Adler)

Source: Reuters “China, ASEAN agree on framework for South China Sea code of conduct”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


SE Asian summit ends in uncertainty over South China Sea stance


Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders link arms during the opening ceremony of the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines April 29, 2017. L-R: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Laos’ Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith. REUTERS/Mark Crisanto/Pool

By Manuel Mogato and Enrico Dela Cruz | MANILA Sat Apr 29, 2017

Southeast Asian leaders wrapped up a summit on Saturday with no indication of an agreement on how to address Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, a divisive issue in a region uncertain about its ties with the United States.

Six hours after the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit officially ended in Manila, no customary joint statement had been issued and it was unclear whether there was agreement over including references to China’s militarization and island-building in the hotly disputed waterway.

ASEAN references to the South China Sea issue typically do not name China. Beijing is extremely sensitive to anything it perceives as a veiled reference to its expansion of its seven manmade islands in the Spratly archipelago, including with hangers, runways, radars and missiles.

This year’s summit comes at a time of uncertainty about U.S. interests in the region and whether it will maintain its maritime presence to counter Chinese assertiveness that has often put the region on edge.

A spokesman for the Philippines foreign ministry said a statement would be issued on Saturday.

Two ASEAN diplomatic sources earlier on Saturday told Reuters that Chinese embassy representatives in Manila had sought to influence the content of the communique.

The sources said the Chinese officials had lobbied the Philippines to keep tacit references to Beijing’s island-building and arming of artificial islands out of the statement.

But an unpublished draft dated Friday and seen by Reuters included the term “land reclamation and militarization”, which were not featured in a draft two days earlier. The diplomats said four ASEAN member states had objected to it being omitted.

China is not a member of ASEAN and was not attending the summit. China’s embassy in Manila could not be reached and its foreign ministry did not respond to request for comment.

The content of Friday’s draft would indicate ASEAN was resisting moves by China to keep its contentious activities in the strategic South China Sea off ASEAN’s official agenda.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who chaired Saturday’s meeting, did not answer a question after the summit about whether the statement would refer to “militarization”.

He said ASEAN wanted to complete a framework for a maritime code of conduct with Beijing this year to defuse tensions.

REGIONAL FLASHPOINT

“They want the code of conduct enacted by the at least, at the very least before the end of this year so that everybody would just feel comfortable,” Duterte told a news conference.

“Because if not, it remains to be a flashpoint.”

Duterte also made a no-nonsense call for calm on the Korean Peninsula and urged the United States not to be provoked by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who he said “wants to end the world” and “relishes letting go of missiles”.

Duterte spoke by phone to U.S. President Donald Trump late on Saturday, his aide said. The Philippine leader earlier told reporters he would urge Trump not to be provoked by Kim.

He called for joint efforts to halt extremism and piracy, and several times stressed the importance of non-interference in a country’s affairs.

Duterte also called for collaboration to tackle illegal drugs, amid a fierce crackdown at home that has killed thousands of Filipinos and caused international alarm.

“The illegal drug trade apparatus is massive. But it is not impregnable,” he said in opening the summit.

“With political will and cooperation, it can be dismantled, it can be destroyed before it destroys our societies.”

(Additional reporting Kanupriya Kapoor, and Neil Jerome Morales in Manila and John Ruwitch in Shanghai; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ros Russell)

Source: Reuters “SE Asian summit ends in uncertainty over South China Sea stance”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Philippines’ Duterte says pointless discussing South China Sea woes at summit


Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to visiting Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah during a meeting at the presidential palace ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila, Philippines April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

By Manolo Serapio Jr and Martin Petty | MANILA Thu Apr 27, 2017 | 7:18am EDT

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday it was pointless discussing Beijing’s contentious activities in the South China Sea at this week’s Southeast Asian summit, and no one dared to pressure China anyway.

The no-nonsense former mayor scoffed at questions from reporters about whether China’s rapid reclamation of uninhabited reefs or enforcement of an international arbitration ruling last year would be brought up with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday.

“Who will dare pressure?” he said. “Who can pressure China? Us?”

Asked how ASEAN should deal with China, Duterte said dialogue was the only option.

“The way we’re doing, talking – that’s the only luxury we have,” he said.

“Action? Tell us how. Tell me. Educate me how.”

The Philippines is hosting meetings of ASEAN this year. The bloc will adopt a softer than usual tone about South China Sea disputes and exclude references to militarization or island-building, according to a draft of the chairman’s statement.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

The Philippines’ chairing of ASEAN comes amid a charm offensive by Duterte, who has opted to court China for its business and investment and avoid rows over sovereignty that dogged his predecessors.

Duterte has been accused by critics of taking a defeatist position on China and on defending Philippine sovereignty. He considers his approach is pragmatic and says challenging China risks triggering a war.

The previous government in 2013 filed a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to set the record straight on maritime boundaries. The tribunal did that last year, and invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.

Duterte, who has put the ruling on the back burner and said he will revisit it later in his term, said it was a waste of time for ASEAN to discuss that award now, and it was not relevant.

LOOKING FOR TROUBLE

“Arbitral is simply entitlement. It’s not even a territorial thing. The only question at arbitral was entitlement, not jurisdiction, not even territory,” he said.

“How will you raise the issue? …. We cannot on our own enforce the arbitral judgment.”

He added: “Before, China said we will not honour (it), so why will you force (them) to honour? You’re just looking for trouble. Can we go to war?”

The Philippines is determined to agree a framework for a China-ASEAN code of conduct on the South China Sea during its chairmanship, though there is some scepticism about why it has China’s support now, 15 years after the idea of drafting a code was agreed.

Critics and some diplomats see China’s compliance as a stalling tactic to show it was engaging in diplomacy, while buying time to expand and fortify its presence in the Spratly archipelago.

Asked about China’s sincerity towards completing the code, Duterte said tensions at sea were the fault of the United States.

“Here’s how it is. They (China) really claim it as their own, even a long time ago,” he said. “The issue hasn’t really exploded until the Americans made it to be.”

The mercurial leader said the issue of piracy would be raised during the summit, but his position was clear.

“If any ship of any country of the ASEAN or any ship of that matter, in dealing with piracy, my order is just to blow them up,” he said. “Why should I arrest them?”

He was also asked his view on the rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme, an issue likely to be discussed by ASEAN.

“My reaction is kindly, kindly use your patience,” he said. “It would be as good as any other time to advise now, people, just go easy.”

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters “Philippines’ Duterte says pointless discussing South China Sea woes at summit”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China, ASEAN make progress on framework deal on disputed sea, Philippines says


China and Southeast Asian countries have made progress in talks on a code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea, the Philippine acting foreign minister said on Tuesday.

China claims almost the entire waterway, through which about $5 trillion in sea-borne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

“We have made good progress on coming up with a framework for a code on conduct with China,” Philippine Acting Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo said, adding the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China were more than halfway through identifying the contents.

“From a scale of 1-10, we are at the upper level. Remember, we were starting from zero in January. There have been a number of elements agreed and we would definitely have a framework on which to embark a serious negotiation on a code of conduct.”

Negotiators from China and ASEAN have met in Indonesia and Cambodia in the last two months to try to come up with a final draft, which could be approved ahead of the August meeting by Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Manila.

Manalo also said Manila would hold talks with Beijing next month to tackle “issues of concern regarding the South China Sea”, including China’s militarization of several manmade islands in the Spratly Islands.

The bilateral mechanism is one of two dialogues held by China with claimant states. The other is with Vietnam.

The United States, the Philippines and Vietnam have protested against China’s militarization of the Spratlys.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to discuss Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea when they meet on Thursday and Friday at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters “China, ASEAN make progress on framework deal on disputed sea, Philippines says”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China says first draft of South China Sea code of conduct ready


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends an news conference at the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), in Beijing, China March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

A first draft of a code of conduct for behavior in the disputed South China Sea has been completed, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday, adding tension in the waterway had eased notably.

Since 2010, China and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been discussing a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflict among rival claimants in the busy South China Sea.

Speaking at his annual news conference on the sidelines of China’s parliamentary session, Wang said talks last month had made “clear progress” and had formulated a first draft of a framework for the code.

“China and ASEAN countries feel satisfied with this,” he said.

Wang said tensions in the South China Sea had not just “somewhat dropped, but had distinctly dropped” over the past year.

But in a nod to the United States and its regular freedom of navigation naval patrols in the region, Wang said those who still wanted to “stir up trouble” will be condemned by countries in the region.

“We definitely will not allow this stable situation, which has been hard to come by, be damaged or interfered with,” he said.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of man-made islands and its build-up of military facilities in the sea, and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free movement.

China has long called for what it terms “countries outside the region” – generally a reference to the United States – to stay out of the dispute, saying China and Southeast Asia are determined to resolve things peacefully.

China lays claim to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the waters that have rich fishing grounds, along with oil and gas deposits.

Tensions reached a flashpoint after the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China in The Hague and as China started militarizing artificial islands it built up on reefs in the South China Sea.

The tribunal ruled last year in Manila’s favor, but the election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has seen a dramatic U-turn in his country’s approach.

Duterte has said repeatedly he wants to avoid confrontation with China and saw no need to press it to abide by the ruling.

Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay has said he hoped the code of conduct would be completed by the middle of this year and help de-escalate tensions.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Philip Wen; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: Reuters “China says first draft of South China Sea code of conduct ready”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.