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ASEAN stresses self-restraint, non-militarization in South China Sea

ASEAN stresses self-restraint, non-militarization in South China Sea

DISAGREEMENTS over North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile tests and territorial disputes in the South China Sea prevented the region's foreign ministers from promptly issuing their joint communiqué after an annual gathering in Manila, two Southeast Asian diplomats said last Sunday.

Hours before the ASEAN minister's statement, the US presented a draft United Nations resolution toughening sanctions on North Korea with a sweeping ban on exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood that could deprive Pyongyang of $1 billion in annual revenues.

"This framework will help all parties involved in the South China Sea issue to resolve their disputes through bilateral negotiations without any interference from a third party", he said.

As the #North Korean minister of foreign affairs and a U.S. #Secretary of State sits down in a room for the first time in history, the world is closely watching to see what the top diplomats of Pyongyang and Washington will actually do as they meet face to face in the same room to discuss the burning issues confronting them.

China warned the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Sunday, August 6, against "outside parties" in drafting a Code of Conduct (COC) in the disputed South China Sea.

Its sweeping claims overlap with those of ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.

Vietnam, the most determined critic of China on the issue, had insisted during two days of negotiations that ASEAN insist the code be legally binding, arguing otherwise it would be meaningless.

The South China Sea chapter in the latest draft communique, a negotiated text subject to changes, is a watered-down version of one issued in Laos past year.

Opposition by China has repeatedly disrupted Vietnam's efforts to exploit offshore energy reserves, most recently in an area overlapping what Beijing considers its oil concessions.

The statement is a reference to Chinese structures over disputed islands, including Mischief Reef, which is contested by China and the Philippines, and Woody Island, which is contested by China and Vietnam.

On Saturday, ASEAN foreign ministers adopted a separate joint statement on the situation in the Korean Peninsula, with its provisions being included into the final joint communique.

"There is no consensus yet", the diplomat said, adding the drafting committee was tasked with continuing the negotiations on Saturday night.

Under the DOC, dispute resolution will be through "friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned", a position that China stressed in late July by telling ASEAN countries to keep regional outsiders from interfering in disputes.

The event is taking place as Philippine security forces battle Islamic State-aligned gunmen who have since May been occupying parts of Marawi, the nation's main Muslim city about 800 kilometres (500 miles) to the south of Manila.