(Eagle News Service) — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Tuesday underscored the importance of completing the framework of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea by the middle of this year, as it expressed “grave concern” for China’s militarization of several areas in the body of water.
In a press conference in Boracay where foreign ministers and senior officials from the regional bloc’s member-states gathered for a meeting, Yasay said ASEAN was “expecting” such framework to be completed “hopefully by the end of June.”
According to Yasay, the actual COC “would spring from that framework.”
“And we would like the COC to be comprehensive,” he said, adding it should be “legally binding” and “must cover the broadest areas of how disputes will be resolved..”
Asked how close the ASEAN and China were to reaching an agreement on the framework, Yasay said it was “difficult to say.”
He said there were “a lot of critical areas that have to be resolved,” noting that ministers had also “expressed grave concern…in so far as what they saw and perceived as militarization of certain areas in the South China Sea.”
“Suffice it to say (there is) … determination to complete the framework within (that timeframe)…We had a lot of series of meetings with our senior officers with China in discussing and resolving this issue,” he quickly added.
ASEAN is composed of the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Yasay is the chairman of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat which began on Tuesday.
The retreat is the first major ASEAN meeting of the year.
The Philippines holds the chairmanship of ASEAN 2017.