ASEAN agrees on Code of Conduct for territorial disputes in the South China Sea

Nov 25, 1999 01:00 AM

Southeast Asian officials sought China's crucial approval of a newly forged draft "code of conduct" aimed at controlling conflicts over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The draft was finalised by senior officials from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which will hold its annual leaders' summit later. The "code of conduct" and efforts to foster economic recovery are heading the agenda.
Philippine Foreign Under-secretary Lauro Baja said the draft code would be presented to China, which is among several countries with claims to the disputed Spratly Islands. China, along with Japan and South Korea, will meet with ASEAN. Differences over the geographic scope of the code have prevented its adoption for months.
Vietnam earlier insisted that it apply to the entire South China Sea, including the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam and China claim. Malaysia, which recently negotiated a separate security arrangement with China, has objected, saying some parts of the South China Sea overlap its territorial waters. Baja said China also opposes the inclusion of the Paracels, arguing that it is a bilateral matter with Vietnam.

The Spratlys, believed to be rich in oil and gas, are claimed by four ASEAN members - Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam - as well as China and Taiwan. The Philippines, which drafted much of the proposed code, has tried to align ASEAN members in a common stance against what it sees as Chinese expansionism in the Spratlys.
An earlier draft of the code said rival claimants will refrain from "taking action that would establish presence" in new areas. China, Malaysia and Vietnam have recently built or enlarged structures on the islands to reinforce their territorial claims. Efforts to establish the code come as ASEAN was talking about increasing its co-operation with China, South Korea and Japan in political, security, social, economic and monetary issues. South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has predicted the rise of a wider East Asian grouping.

The Asian Development Bank met with ASEAN finance officials. The bank's president, Tadao Chino, said they discussed "how to make this recovery in the Asian region more sustainable." A report drawn up by ASEAN finance officials says the rebound from the 2-year-old Asian financial crisis has been stronger than expected, with all ASEAN economies showing growth.
Japan has pledged $ 82 bn for the region and is likely to come under pressure for even more assistance. Tokyo said it will announce a "substantial" support package during the summit that will stress the dispatch of experts to train specialists, particularly in the financial sector. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: AP
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