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China reports progress on South China Sea code of conduct

19 May 2017, 05:08 | Bernard Bryant

The 23rd Senior Officials Consultations will convene in Guiyang on Friday, and the first bilateral consultation between China and the Philippines on the South China Sea is also scheduled for Friday in Guiyang.

On Thursday, China and the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced that they had finalized a framework for a code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea.

Four Asean members, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, along with Taiwan and China, contest the sovereignty of several islands of this strategic maritime space, which Beijing claims nearly in its entirety.

But China refused to turn it into a legally binding "code of conduct", using the intervening time to build its artificial islands. "It signals that ASEAN is prepared to bend on certain issues, which must be favorable to Beijing".

The Panganiban Reef, which is 70 nautical miles from Palawan and is located within the country's 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has been occupied by China since 1994, when Beijing transformed the reef into a highly fortified military garrison.

Beijing expresses strong opposition whenever U.S. naval ships pass through the area, even though it maintains there is no threat to freedom of navigation.

Liu said at a news conference after the meeting that the framework takes care of the interests of all parties and has provided "a flexible political environment" for the next phase of consultation on the COC.

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China has conducted extensive land reclamation work at Fiery Cross Reef, including building an airport, one of several Chinese-controlled features in the South China Sea where China has carried out such work.

The latest breakthrough was made during the 14th Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the DOC between China and Asean. "As a result, the Trump Administration has a myopic strategic view rather than a comprehensive strategic view".

It is also claimed by China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The award resolved a case that the Philippines under Aquino had filed in early 2013 after the highly publicized 2012 stand-off with Beijing over Scarborough Shoal. He obtained a favorable ruling on behalf of the Philippines, which Duterte has astonishingly set aside, instead offering to solve the issue bilaterally.

China first detected the frozen gas in 2007 in the sea.

China has been especially assertive in the area recently, and has not shied away from harsh diplomatic confrontation with the other claimants. "So if we can get something there with no hassle at all, so why not?"

The agreement suits China's goal of managing rather than solving the disputes, with Beijing still certain that it will eventually reach solutions through bilateral talks, Huang said.

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