11 July 2024

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi today hailed the early completion of the first reading of the papers relating to the negotiation of a joint code of conduct in the South China Sea between China and ASEAN member countries as “new, major progress”.

After Wang met with ASEAN foreign ministers in Bangkok, he told the media that Beijing would continue to view ASEAN as “a priority in its neighbourhood diplomacy,” adding that Beijing will continue to work with the group to build on the progress and will continue to enhance mutual political trust.

The text will form the basis for future discussions on a system to manage and resolve conflicts in the South China Sea, which has been claimed by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Xinhua quoted Mr. Wang as saying that the completion of the initial text is an important step towards the goal of concluding the consultations within three years.

China has been increasingly assertive in claiming several disputed reefs in the South China Sea and in building airstrips and other military facilities over the past several years.

In July, a Chinese ship, escorted by heavily armed coastguard vessels, entered waters near a Vietnamese controlled reef at Vanguard Bank to conduct a seismic survey, triggering a stand-off with Vietnam.

In June, a Chinese fishing boat was accused of ramming a Philippine fishing vessel near Reed Bank, claimed by Manila, leaving the Filipino crew in the sinking vessel. They were eventually rescued by a Vietnamese ship.

The incident provoked outrage in the Philippines, but Philippine President Duterte played down the incident, calling it a “little maritime accident.”