Cambodia Says Southeast Asian Nations Unhappy Over North Korea's Missile Tests

Alan Cayetano Foreign Secretary of the Philippines.--AFP

He said Singapore, Brunei and especially the Philippines had noticed positive developments in the South China Sea. In the process, it has gained momentum despite last year's ruling by an arbitration tribunal that invalidated its expansive claims in the disputed waters. The U.S.is our treaty ally.

An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing.

In connection with the Philippine chairmanship of the 50th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a proclamation declaring the month of August as "ASEAN Month" with the aim of further raising public awareness on the importance and value of the regional bloc.

Nevertheless, China quickly voiced its irritation. He was apparently referring to the U.S., which China has, for the longest time, accused of meddling in what it says is an Asian dispute that should be resolved only by the countries involved.

This has also been the position taken by the Philippines under President Duterte, chairman of ASEAN on its 50th anniversary this year. What the ASEAN ministers agreed on with China was the adoption of a framework to help them begin the substantive negotiation on the actual provisions of the COC.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the most substantial progress made was that, with the joint efforts of China and Asean, the situation in the South China Sea has been stabilized.

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Many are expecting that at the end of the ASEAN meetings this year, under the chairmanship of the Philippines, ASEAN will finalize the code of conduct that might be legally binding for all countries that have overlapping claims on some areas in the West Philippines Sea.

If and when they ever get started, negotiations under the new framework will face a number of thorny issues, including whether the code should be legally binding. "If you go back in the past just to scold, it's regressive", he said.

The Philippines had wanted no mention of reclamation because there had been no change on the subject since the previous Asean meeting. 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".

In their joint communique issued last Sunday, the ASEAN foreign ministers emphasized non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the disputed South China Sea.

China government earlier cited the role of the ASEAN community in contributing to regional peace, prosperity and stability in the region. "If China opposes those actions, so be it".

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