China and Southeast Asian countries agreed on Thursday to try to conclude a long-delayed non-aggression pact within three years aimed at bringing persistent territorial disputes in the busy South China Sea to an end. Prevent it from turning into a major armed conflict.
China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Thursday discussed guidelines for completing their code of conduct talks before the fall of 2026 during a meeting between the foreign ministers of the Group of 10 countries and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. Agreed, a Southeast Asian diplomat familiar with the meetings told The Associated Press.
The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to publicly discuss the issue before the official announcement of the agreement. China and four ASEAN member states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – are locked in a decades-long territorial standoff with Taiwan over the disputed waterway, a key route for global trade and believed to lie above the vast sea. Is. Oil and gas reserves.
The disputed area has long been considered a point of Asian friction and has become a sensitive front in the US-China rivalry in the region. In accordance with international law, efforts should be made to conclude the negotiations of an effective and concrete code of conduct within or before the 3-year deadline.” ,” according to the guidelines, a copy of which was seen by AP.
The guidelines called for more meetings between the two sides and the start of negotiations on the most contentious issues, including whether the regional code should be legally enforceable and its geographic scope. Washington makes no territorial claims in the South China Sea but has said that freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes are in the national interest of the United States. It has challenged China’s expansive territorial claims in the region and Beijing has reacted sharply, warning the US to stop interfering in what it calls a purely Asian dispute.
China and ASEAN signed a 2002 non-binding agreement calling on rival claimant states to refrain from aggressive actions that could lead to armed conflict, including the occupation of barren islets and reefs, but violations have continued. Nearly 10 years ago, China turned seven disputed reefs into a missile-protected chain of islands in the Spratlys, the most hotly disputed part of the South China Sea, sparking concern among rival claimant states and the US and its allies.
With tensions rising, ASEAN and China agreed to negotiate a code of conduct. But the talks were delayed for years, including during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and also because of major differences between China and rival claimant states. Chinese negotiators have proposed that the code of conduct prohibits the presence and activities of foreign forces in the disputed waters. Southeast Asian diplomats have said US allies involved in the talks were opposed to his stance that Washington plays a key role in the region as a counterweight to Beijing.