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ASEAN, China to expedite Code of Conduct in South China Sea

China has agreed to fast-track the drafting of an agreement that will provide a Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and promised to abide by it, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte said China made this commitment at the end of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila Tuesday and considered the agreement as a step towards a peaceful resolution of the territorial and maritime disputes in the strategic area.

“China has graciously agreed to a Code of Conduct and it binds itself to the agreement,” Duterte, chair of the regional summit, said during a press conference at the end of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits

China claims 80 percent of the South China Sea, including waters within the 370-km exclusive economic zones of its smaller neighbors.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan also claim parts of the Spratlys, where reefs, atolls, and islets are believed to be sitting atop vast oil and gas reserves.

The area is also crisscrossed by sea-lanes where a third of global commerce pass every year.

On Monday, ASEAN leaders and China have agreed to start talks on the Code of Conduct based on the Framework approved by their foreign ministers in August.

 

“The overflight in space above and the use of the China Sea will proceed and it was a promise of China, unbridled, unfettered,” Duterte said.

He said China has also agreed to accelerate the process of drafting the agreement after being pressed by ASEAN member-states.

“This is something which is an age-old problem. And I said, let it be. We’ll just observe certain norms of conduct and we were pressing China to set a date,” Duterte said. #