Asean code due February

THE elements of the much-delayed code of conduct between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be drawn up by next month, President Benigno Aquino III said on Friday.

Aquino said all claimants to the South China Sea have professed adherence to international law and a code of conduct is in conformity with international law.

“We are now moving forward from 2002. More pressure will be done on China. So can we just all sit down on this and come up with a binding code of conduct?,” Aquino told journalists after the inauguration of a power plant in Davao City.

“The goodwill of all nations is also important. We are hoping our brothers in China will be pragmatic. And benefits will be seen once the entitlements and obligations are all clear to them,” Aquino added.

Aquino made the remark a day after British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who was in the country Thursday, said any attempt to restrict air and sea travel in the disputed South China Sea would be viewed as a “red line.”

“Freedom of navigation and overflight are non-negotiable. They are red lines for us,” Hammond told a joint news conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.

On Friday, Vietnam issued its second rebuke in a week to Beijing, accusing its northern neighbor of “threatening peace” after more Chinese aircraft landed on a contested reef in the South China Sea.

Chinese state media on Wednesday said two civilian planes landed on one of the islands in the Fiery Cross reef in the disputed Spratly Islands, which are claimed by Hanoi but controlled by Beijing.

The landings are “a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty and threaten peace and stability in the region”, foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement issued late Thursday.

The two “test flights” Wednesday follow an initial aircraft landing on Saturday, which prompted the first formal diplomatic complaint from Hanoi.

The planes departed from and returned to the city of Haikou, the capital of the southern island province of Hainan—a two-hour journey each way.

The flights have raised alarm in the region and attracted criticism from the United States, with the Pentagon warning Thursday that the move would raise tensions in the disputed waters.

The Philippines has also said it would file a protest.

Binh said Vietnam has asked China “to immediately end similar acts... that expand and complicate disputes”.

China claims virtually all the South China Sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have partial claims.

China has asserted its claim by rapidly building artificial islands, including  airstrips said to be capable of hosting military jets.

Several other claimants, including Vietnam, have also built facilities on islands they control, but at a significantly slower pace and smaller scale.

Topics: Asean code , Asean , South China Sea
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