US, Japan, Australia Urge Binding Code for South China Sea

US, Japan, Australia Urge Binding Code for South China Sea

US, Japan, Australia Urge Binding Code for South China Sea

Vietnam has won the promise of a visit from a US aircraft carrier and deeper defense cooperation from the United States as strains show with China over the disputed South China Sea, Reuters reports.

In a statement after their meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop condemned "in the strongest terms" North Korea's nuclear weapons program, including its launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles last month.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has stressed the importance of abiding by global rules in the South China Sea despite China's rejection of a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that invalidated Beijing's claims.

(File) Effigies of corpses are seen with placards as activists protest against the Extra Judicial Killings in the country involving the war on drugs of President Rodrigo Duterte, during a rally outside the Philippine National Police (PNP) Headquarters in Quezon City, metro Manila, Philippines January 27, 2017.

In 2002, China and ASEAN signed the "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea", which advocated peacefully settling territorial disputes, based on worldwide law.

Vietnam, the most determined critic of China on the issue, had insisted during two days of negotiations that ASEAN insist the code be legally binding, arguing otherwise it would be meaningless. "Afterward we met with the Philippine foreign minister to exchange views on bilateral relations, especially regarding ASEAN".

Where the South China Sea was once the big ticket item for the bloc's summits, this weekend was dominated by another lingering regional flashpoint - North Korea. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi would not comment on whether Beijing supported the code being legally binding.

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Its sweeping claims overlap with those of ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan. China has resisted having the agreement be binding, and has reinforced its claims to the sea with the construction of artificial islands that the United States and others have criticized.

The previous administration had brought the dispute to the Arbitral Tribunal but China rejected the court's authority and refused to participate in the hearings.

"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.

But first, he said, in a shot at the United States, the situation has to be stable and free of "major disruption from outside parties".

The Philippines International Convention Centre is the venue for meetings of foreign ministers of ASEAN and partner countries. "We'll decide what is good for us, we will decide what strategies are good for us because we are a sovereign nation", Cayetano said.

Another diplomat says the wordings on the South China Sea issue to be included in the communique had not yet been finalized Saturday.

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