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Tillerson underscores importance of U.S. tie-up with ASEAN

13 Août 2017

The three countries issued a joint statement after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met in the Philippines on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting.

China's claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea were entirely rejected by a decision handed down by a court of arbitration in July past year.

He said the Philippines would not be able to negotiation with China or boost economic ties with it if the country kept pushing for the arbitral ruling.

This framework, which will not be publicly released, is aimed at creating the fabled code that would, ideally, reflect the 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea (largely ignored by just about every party to date).

Since a year ago, tensions in the South China Sea have been ratcheted down due to the dedicated efforts of China and ASEAN to resolve their differences through dialogue, and both sides have been seeking to expand and deepen their cooperation.

Wang announced at the Manila meetings that China would be ready to start negotiations for the maritime code when its leader travels to the Philippines and joins ASEAN heads of state in November.

The US and other nations have tested Beijing's claims by conducting "freedom of navigation" operations around islands controlled by China.

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Tensions between China and Vietnam have increased in recent months over disputed territory in areas of the South China Sea that are rich in oil and gas.

The ministers underscored the importance of upholding the rules-based order, called on all states to respect freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the seas, and reiterated that the three countries will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever global law allows.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, and has heavily militarized some islands in the region and expanded other territories with major land reclamation work, turning sandbars into islands and equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems.

"I told him that [the two offers for talks] are an urgent matter that should be carried out immediately with any political agenda put aside and asked him to proactively react", she was quoted as saying. He says he won't give a concrete timeframe but that the USA will "know it when we see it".

Wang told a news conference in Manila that those conditions include noninterference by "outside parties", apparently referring to the United States, which Beijing has frequently accused of meddling in what it says is an Asian dispute that should be resolved only by the countries involved.

Addressing the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Manila, the Philippines, yesterday, the Deputy PM underlined concerns about construction and militarisation activities at sea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping says China will have the "confidence to conquer all forms of invasion" and won't allow the loss of "any piece" of its land to outsiders.

Tillerson underscores importance of U.S. tie-up with ASEAN