Push for South China Sea code stirs ASEAN suspicions about Beijing's endgame

Push for South China Sea code stirs ASEAN suspicions about Beijing's endgame

Push for South China Sea code stirs ASEAN suspicions about Beijing's endgame

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday it is pointless to discuss China's island-building in the South China Sea and an global tribunal's ruling striking down Beijing's claims to the waterway at this week's Asean summit, calling both a "non-issue".

Senior officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have started meeting today to prepare for the 30th Leaders' Summit that will take place in the Philippine capital this week.

With the Organisation For Economic Cooperation and Development forecasting growth of 4.9 percent across Asean this year, from 4.8 percent last year, and average yearly growth of 5.1 percent through to 2021, former Philippine foreign secretary Albert said Asean leaders still see the benefits of economic integration.

The 30th ASEAN Summit is expected to result in an outcome document in the form of a joint statement or the "Chairman Statement" agreed by member counters.

"Balikatan is created to meet current challenges facing the Philippines", U.S. embassy press officer Molly Koscina said in a statement on Monday. Duterte's turn entailed several concessions to China that his critics claim could erode national sovereignty and security in pursuit of economic gains.

"At least if there's a conduct and they would agree, so many things will be out", Duterte said. "It will evolve more quickly because we need to have it finalized by the time the leaders meet on Saturday, and the final version will be of course issued after the leaders' summit", DFA Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said.

China did not participate in the arbitration and does not recognize the ruling.

So I'll skip that.

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One of the points of criticism for the draft of the statement is that the Philippine failed to take advantage of its chairmanship to forward its claim in South China Sea.

The president has not pushed a United Nations finding past year that the Philippines held exclusive sovereignty over its claimed areas of the waters.

Jokowi will also attend meetings during the summit with two sub-regional initiatives, the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT).

Asked how ASEAN should deal with China, Duterte said dialogue was the "only luxury we have". "It's already there. What will be the objective of discussing it if you can't do anything about it?" he said, referring to seven islands China built in the Spratlys archipelago.

Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the strategic waterway has always been a goal for claimant members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Baja said that, even if leaders did disapprove of Duterte's tactics, they would observe a long-standing ASEAN policy of non-interference in each others' affairs.

"If you look at the growing trade and investments coming back and forth among the Asean countries and China, it has become a major player and a partner for Asean countries, so that strengthens the future for Asean", he said.

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