Draft a sign of progress on South China Sea code of conduct

China and ASEAN countries on Thursday approved a draft framework of the South China Sea Code of Conduct, marking a milestone in peacefully resolving the South China Sea issue. The 14th Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, held yesterday in Guizhou province's Guiyang city, reviewed and approved the COC framework draft.

The Philippines, which chairs the 10-member ASEAN this year, has expressed hope of finalizing such an agreement during its leadership.

But China vowed to ignore the ruling and warned the Philippines against trying to use the verdict as leverage. "And the countries that do not comply, will they respect that court?" he asked reporters.

The issue has come to a head in recent years as China has pursued a strategy of building artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities in the region, provoking strong reactions from other claimants as well as the USA, which argues Beijing's actions threaten freedom of navigation and overflight through the strategically vital waters.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the attempt of President Rodrigo Duterte to raise the issue of possible oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea had only caused alarm to the Chinese government.

"The draft framework contains only the elements and is not the final rules, but the conclusion of the framework is a milestone in the process and is significant".

Reacting to China's threat, Carpio also said on Saturday that the Philippines can also run to the United Nations (UN) as another option.

Similarly to the situation with the disputed islands in the East China Sea, primarily contested by China and Japan, the dispute escalated when supposedly rich oil and gas reserves were discovered in the area.

The issue concerning the South China Sea lately became a regional and global issue for those with common interests such as the developments in the South China Sea, terrorism and extremism, maritime security and other security issues.

A crucial shipping route, the South China Sea is home to a messy territorial dispute pitting China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia against one another.

"The ASEAN countries known they can't fight the Chinese or count on America so it's best to work with China to stabilize the status quo", Huang said.

"If he [Jinping] really said that, let us go to the United Nations", the senator added, voicing concern the issue can be blown out of proportion and trigger a war.

Chinese and ASEAN officials will meet in August in the Philippines to submit the agreed framework.

The talks in Guiyang, in southwestern China, included discussion of the arbitration ruling a year ago that invalidated Beijing's sweeping claims of South China Sea sovereignty.

The next round of talks will be held in Manila later this year, it added.

  • Leroy Wright