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ASEAN, China eye rules of claimants' behavior in S. China Sea.

PHNOM PENH, July 11 Kyodo

The foreign ministers ASEAN member countries met with their Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi Wednesday in bilateral talks that are expected to focus on how to promote negotiations for binding rules on the behavior of claimant states in the disputed South China Sea.

The meeting came after officials of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China agreed Sunday to hold a first round of consultations on a "code of conduct" to regulate claimant states' activities in the South China Sea in September.

Tensions have risen between China and the Philippines and Vietnam with conflicting claims in the South China Sea. While Beijing's claims encompass almost all its waters, the territorial disputes also involve Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Escalating tensions come as the United States moves to strengthen its alliance in Asia in a strategic shift to the region.

China rejects U.S. intervention in disputes in the South China Sea, calling for bilateral negotiations with other claimant states.

On Monday, ASEAN foreign ministers adopted "key elements" of a code of conduct on behavior of claimants in the disputed waters, which ASEAN plans to use in negotiating with China.

With the code, ASEAN hopes to create a favorable environment for peaceful settlement of disputes and encourage efforts to clarify disputes in accordance with international law.

The bloc also seeks to establish a mechanism to monitor the implementation of the code of conduct and the full implementation of the "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," a nonbinding agreement ASEAN and China signed in 2002.

In June this year, Vietnam's parliament enacted law asserting sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, which straddle key shipping lanes and are believed to contain rich energy reserves.

China later said it would open nine blocks in the South China Sea for oil and gas development with foreign companies, sparking a protest from Vietnam.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Jul 16, 2012
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