China reports progress on South China Sea code of conduct

There are areas where claimants are more than China and the Philippines.

MANILA 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 South China Sea has become the world's most contested region with China claiming nearly the entire water body.

The President then said he is not ready to sow a rift with China.

"I think China understands that Duterte has changed the whole dynamic in the South China Sea in their favor".

He said in his speech that China, Vietnam and the Philippines-which previously made a joint seismic survey of the Spratly group of islands in the middle of the South China Sea - should seek peace and tap the hydrocarbon potential of the area.

As South China Sea analysts await the public release of the framework, several questions persist about the nature of the agreement.

Also Friday, China's Liu and the Philippines ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago "Chito" Santa Romana were to meet separately to discuss an agenda for future talks on their dispute over islands and waters in the eastern portion of the South China Sea. "Xi Jinping, I would insist that that is ours and I will drill oil there, '" Duterte said.


China and the Philippines have been improving their relations since the election previous year of Mr. Duterte, who has put on a "separate" track the territorial dispute between the two countries to ease tensions and lure Chinese investment to the Philippines.

Both sides reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and stability, freedom of navigation in and flight above the South China Sea, addressing their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.

At the time, Philippine President Duterte bluntly stated that complaining about China's maritime activities was pointless because no one could pressure China into halting them - a similar, if less tactful, sentiment to the one expressed by Duterte's foreign secretary at Thursday's meeting.

The Philippines won a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last July that rejected China's assertion to the territory.

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". "They would only sign up to a code of conduct that works for China".

The resource-rich South China Sea is claimed by four Asean countries - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam - and two non-Asean countries, namely China and Taiwan.

Duterte has orchestrated a staggering reversal of Philippine foreign policy toward China, choosing not to confront Beijing over the South China Sea, but to tap it for billions of dollars of loans and investments for infrastructure, the backbone of his economic agenda.

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