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ASEAN, China agree to start talks on South China Sea code

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The leaders of the 10-nation Southeast Asian bloc and China, currently at a gathering in Manila, have agreed to start the negotiations for the text of a binding document on the South China Sea.

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The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and Malacañang announced on Monday that an outcome of the ASEAN-China Summit presided by President Rodrigo Duterte is to commence the crafting of the code of conduct.

The start of the talks was announced three months after the framework agreement, or outline, on the COC was concluded. The framework reached in August was a notable development in the maritime dispute which involves China and four ASEAN member-states including the Philippines.

The outline, however, was still lacking details and repeated main points in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a non-binding agreement which did not prevent the building of islands and outposts by Beijing in disputed waters.

The phrase "legally binding" was also avoided in the framework, which is supposed to guide further negotiations on the COC.

Read more at PhilStar

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