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Vietnam takes on China for its expansionist policies in South China Sea

Vietnam takes on China for its expansionist policies in South China Sea

But critics say the framework serves only as a brief outline of previously agreed principles and fails to mention concerns over China's newly built islands or an arbitration ruling a year ago that invalidated Beijing's claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

The communiqué did not mention China, which has been documented to have undertaken large-scale reclamation and improvement works on man-made islands in the South China Sea.

The foreign ministers also underscored the need for claimants to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with global law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The two drafts highlight China's growing regional clout at a time of uncertainty whether the new USA administration will try to check Beijing's assertiveness in the disputed waters.

"If there is a chance, I would tell him that we must have dialogue and that the North must stop the continuous provocations", South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha told reporters upon arrival in Manila.

The agreed text "emphasized the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint".

But the latest text calls for avoidance of "unilateral actions in disputed features" instead.

He stressed that China supports ASEAN to continue to play a central role in regional cooperation.

The Philippines, which serves as ASEAN chairman this year, called the conclusion of talks between China and ASEAN to finalize the framework "a very big step".

A few months before that ruling, 12 nations in the Pacific region concluded more than seven years of negotiations by signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a trade agreement that bound much of Southeast Asia together with the United States and Japan in an economic partnership meant to fight China's growing economic hegemony in the region.

Four ASEAN member states - Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, have claims in the waters that compete with China's.

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The foreign ministers also welcomed in the statement the adoption of a framework Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea which has been agreed with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Second, a meeting will be convened at the end of August to discuss the modalities for negotiations of the actual code of conduct with the approved framework as the basis.

The 10-nation ASEAN may reach an agreement on how to depict their concern on the territorial disputes faster with language that will not include sensitive issues that China objects to, the diplomat said.

The US has long said it would agree to talk only if North Korea agrees to denuclearization - something many analysts believe is unlikely.

He said Washington would not "specify a specific number of days or weeks" before deciding that North Korea had indeed halted its tests.

Vietnam has emerged as China's sternest critic in ASEAN on the South China Sea and has pressed for strong wording in collective statements.

He said he is expecting the resolution's full implementation from ASEAN member countries.

Vietnam sought mention of respect for "sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction" not only in accordance with worldwide law, but more specifically, UNCLOS.

Experts say the uncertain future US commitment to Asia leaves Vietnam in the most exposed position, as it has competing claims with China and relies on imports from its neighbour.

Wang said adoption of the framework created a solid foundation for negotiations that could start this year, if "the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and on the premise that there is no major interference from outside parties", according to Reuters.

China claims almost all of the sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes, and its artificial islands have raised concerns it could eventually build military bases there and establish de facto control over the waters.


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