Philippines urges China to discuss code on South China Sea

Philippines among nations to put pressure on China to instigate code for shared region

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 4:49am

Philippine President Benigno Aquino will urge China to start negotiations on a set of rules to avoid conflict in the South China Sea during a regional summit next week, a government official said.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations in July agreed on a code of conduct for operating in the waters. China, undergoing a once-in-a-decade leadership transition, said at the time it would start talks with Asean "when conditions are ripe," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

"We are ready to negotiate with China," Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Philippine foreign affairs department, told reporters in Manila yesterday, referring to Asean. "We hope China would respond positively, and immediately tackle this issue so we can have something binding."

China has resisted calls to quickly reach a deal on a code of conduct, preferring instead to push for joint development of resources to ease tensions.

Vietnam and the Philippines reject China's map of the sea as a basis for sharing oil, gas and fish in the waters.

Asean leaders will meet Premier Wen Jiabao and US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and other regional leaders during meetings in Phnom Penh next week.

Last year, Asean and China agreed on guidelines to implement a non-binding agreement signed in 2002 that called on signatories to avoid occupying disputed islands, inform others of military exercises and resolve territorial disputes peacefully.

While Asean reached agreement on elements of a code of conduct, the bloc failed to reach consensus on handling disputes in the waters.

They eventually agreed on six principles that avoided mentioning a standoff earlier this year between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal, known in China as Huangyan Island, which both countries claim.

"With these six principles on the South China Sea issue, we can move forward and these summits will be on a totally different dynamic," Hernandez said. "We are hoping and expecting there will be smooth and very productive results on these meetings."