North Korea top of agenda at ASEAN meeting

Posted August 07, 2017

Robespierre L. Bolivar, spokesman of the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs, said the foreign ministers "endorsed the framework of the code of conduct for eventual adoption at the ASEAN-China ministerial meeting on August 6".

Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, are seriously concerned over the escalation of the situation in the Korean Peninsula and reiterate their commitment to the Bangkok agreement on the nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia, according to the Joint Communique of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Manila released on Sunday. "That is also provided for in the just concluded UN Security Council Resolution endorsed by the 15-member National Security Council, including the United States".

Southeast Asian countries and China adopted on Sunday the framework of a code of conduct in the South China Sea, setting the stage for long-sought negotiations to start on ways to ease tensions in regional waters.

Like in a previous meeting in Laos, the draft framework contains only the elements and is not the final, legally binding document, but the conclusion of the framework could be considered a milestone among the competing countries that include (aside from the Philippines and China) Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Wang made no reference to Beijing's reclamation activities, but said in a statement that "China is seeking cooperation with ASEAN for development in the South China Sea".

The Philippines brought its dispute with China to arbitration in 2013 and a Hague-based court ruled in 2016 that China's nine-dash-line claim has no basis in global law.

China claims almost all of the strategically vital sea, including waters approaching the coasts of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

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

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

While the minister did not refer to specific outside parties, he previously urged the ASEAN to resist outside influence when dealing with the dispute.

Second, how the COC consultations will be approached and sustained while upholding what principles shall be discussed at the Joint Working Group Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration of Code of Conduct (DOC) at the end of August.

The event is taking place as Philippine security forces battle Islamic State-aligned gunmen who have since May been occupying parts of Marawi, the nation's main Muslim city about 800 kilometres (500 miles) to the south of Manila.

The Philippine president is scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a visit to Manila this weekend to attend a regional meeting of top diplomats, he said.