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Issues before ASEAN ministers meeting in Manila

The drawing up of a framework outline for the proposed code of behavior created to prevent clashes in the South China Sea has been a significant achievement.

However both the United States and China are known to be actively preparing military options as communist North Korea threatens to abandon its hermit isolation and emerge as an unpredictable and uninvited member of the 9-member "Nuclear Club" of nations with arsenals of nuclear weapons.

The ministers urged ASEAN member states and China to fully and effectively implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

As a hard-won result achieved through the joint efforts of the two sides to reach an agreement, the document mirrors the shared commitment to build peace and stability in the waters demonstrated by China and the Asean countries recently.

They urged rival claimants in the South China Sea "to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts, militarisation of disputed features, and undertaking unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment in areas pending delimitation".

It is said that Vietnam wanted a more assertive ASEAN communiqué at the end of their meeting in Manila this week, but the other ASEAN nations, notably Cambodia, opted for a non-confrontational stand against China.

Wang added that his talks with Kono were useful as he got to know the new foreign minister better.

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The Philippines criticized the United States, Japan, and Australia for releasing a joint statement that urged both Manila and Beijing to heed a 2016 worldwide ruling on the South China Sea.

"[Why] is it that some countries do not want to see greater stability in the South China Sea?" It does not outline as an initial objective the need to make the code legally binding and enforceable, or have a dispute resolution mechanism.

Kono is also believed to have expressed concerns about Chinese government ships' repeated entry into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands and about China's gas development activities in the East China Sea despite Japanese opposition.

"At first, there was a word in the framework of the COC about "not being legally binding".

"I was disappointed", Wang said in the meeting with Kono, which was held here on August 7 on the sidelines of foreign ministers' meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said a "framework draft" was "agreed upon and approved". Bilateral talks on the South China Sea began in May, but the arbitral ruling was not raised.

In a statement issued on the sidelines of Asia's biggest security forum in Manila, Australia's foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her two counterparts also called on China to abide by a UN-backed tribunal a year ago that rejected Beijing's claims to nearly all of the strategically important and resource-rich waterways.

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