ASEAN, China adopt framework for crafting code on South China Sea

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All parties say the framework is only an outline for how the code will be established but critics say the failure to outline as an initial objective the need to make the code legally binding and enforceable or have a dispute resolution mechanism, raises doubts about how effective the pact will be.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the 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.
" He told reporters there had been "really tangible progress" so there was "a need to cherish momentum on the South China Sea".
Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the strategic waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), some of which have sparred for years over what they see as China`s disregard for their sovereign rights and its blocking of fishermen and energy exploration efforts.
Beijing insists its activities are for defense purposes, in areas it considers its waters.
Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines, however, all claim some or all of the South China Sea and its myriad shoals, reefs and islands.
Some critics and diplomats believe China`s sudden interest in the code after 15 years of delays is to drag out the negotiating process to buy time to complete its strategic objectives in the South China Sea, through which more than $3 billion of ship-borne trade passes annually.

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