Code of conduct on South China Sea will have no teeth



ASEAN and China on Sunday approved the framework for a code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea and targeted to start the negotiations on the actual code by the end of the year.

Southeast Asian countries participating in the forum had earlier issued a statement, expressing concern about North Korea's test of what is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile. With the Philippines cosying up to Beijing under President Rodrigo Duterte, Vietnam is now the loudest claimant criticising Chinese expansion in the waters.

"The ministers called on China and the Philippines to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal's 2016 Award in the Philippines-China arbitration, as it is final and legally binding on both parties", the statement said.

The PM highlighted the achievements that ASEAN has gained over the past a half century to become a strong and united community with rules-based operation and comprehensive and extensive connectivity across the fields, contributing to the maintenance of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region.

"We will not allow this to disturb our good relationships", he said. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha called for a favorable response from Pyongyang to President Moon Jae-in's follow-up measures for his "Berlin vision", while her North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho questioned the sincerity of Moon's "offers".

He apparently was referring to his government's proposal of holding military and humanitarian talks with the north that contrasted with the more hardline USA position of stepping up sanctions and military pressure on the isolated communist state.

Foreign Ministers Rex Tillerson, Julie Bishop, and Taro Kono were in Manila for the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.

The positive tone and calmer situation pervading the meetings between the ministers of South-east Asia and China bode well for Singapore as it prepares to assume the Asean chair, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said.

U.S., Japan and Australia on Monday urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to exert more pressure on North Korea over its nuclear ambitions and to make sure a planned code of conduct for maritime disputes is legally binding. China alone is responsible for 90 percent of North Korea's trade, and Russian Federation like China employs North Koreans as contract workers, whose salaries mostly go directly to their government.

In the coming ASEAN meetings, this issue may well occupy much of the foreign ministers' attention.

The diplomatic wrangling sought to build on the sweeping new North Korea sanctions passed by the U.N. Security Council a day earlier - the strongest in a generation, the USA said.

Should those talks occur, they would be the first military-to-military dialogue in three years.

"The fundamental reason for THAAD deployment is for our national interest and for the sake of our national security", Tang said, referring to Seoul's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense supplied by the U.S.

Chinese state media on Monday acknowledged North Korea had to be punished for its missile tests, but criticized the United States for its "arrogance". Founded in 1846, AP has covered all the major news events of the past 165 years, providing high-quality, informed reporting of everything from wars and elections to championship games and royal weddings.