South China Sea Code of Conduct First Draft Ready for Review
By Mei Manuel, March 09, 2017 01:03 AM
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the first draft for the code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea is complete and expressed that the tension in the disputed area has dramatically eased.
Since 2010, China and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been discussing a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflict among rival claimants in the South China Sea.
In his annual news conference as the Chinese parliamentary session was in progress, Wang said that the discussions last month regarding the framework has made "clear progress" and the first draft has been created.
"China and ASEAN countries feel satisfied with this," he said.
Wang also said that tensions in the South China Sea had not just "somewhat dropped, but had distinctly dropped" over the past year.
He had also spoken discreetly on the patrols done by the US as part of its crusade to protect freedom of navigation in the region and said that those who wanted to "stir up trouble" will be condemned by countries in the region.
"We definitely will not allow this stable situation, which has been hard to come by, be damaged or interfered with," he said.
The United States has criticized China's construction of man-made islands and its build-up of military facilities in the disputed islands in the South China Sea, and expressed concern that these infrastructures could be used to restrict free movement in the area.
China has been calling for the withdrawal of "countries outside the region" - mainly the US - regarding the dispute and stressed that both China and Southeast Asia will be able to resolve this issue peacefully.
China claims almost all the South China Sea with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claiming several parts of the disputed area which have rich fishing grounds, along with oil and gas deposits.
Tensions in the region have increased dramatically after the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China regarding the disputed waters in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. China, in response, started militarizing artificial islands they have already built in the South China Sea.
The tribunal ruled last year in Manila's favor, but the election of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has brought a change in how the Philippines handled the dispute. Duterte has stressed repeatedly that he did not want to confront China and does not see the need to press the ruling.
Earlier in the year, Philippines' Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay has said he hoped the code of conduct would be completed by the middle of this year to help de-escalate tensions in the disputed territory.
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