ASEAN, China yet to plan code of conduct at sea

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ASEAN member nations and China agreed at a meeting in Thailand to settle territorial conflicts in the East Sea peacefully, but they failed to make any progress on plans for talks to establish a code of conduct for the sea.

The Bangkok Post said ASEAN and Chinese officials issued a statement that pledged "smooth and effective dialogues" to solve the disputes over the waters, known internationally as South China Sea.

But Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs and leader of the Thai delegation, told the newspaper there was no time frame yet about when talks on the code of conduct would start.

"We are still in the mode of building mutual confidence and trust," Phuangketkeow said.

The two-day meeting ending Monday at the seaside resort of Pattaya was to prepare for the ASEAN summit, the 15th ASEAN-China Summit, the ASEAN Plus Three Commemorative Summit and the 7th East Asia Summit, all to be held in November in Phnom Penh.

Pham Quang Vinh, Deputy Minister of Foreign and head of the Vietnam delegation, urged officials at the meeting to start talks on the ASEAN Code of Conduct for the South China Sea as it is "for the mutual benefit and concern of ASEAN, China and the region."

"The code of conduct can be an effective tool to guarantee peace, stability, security and maritime safety in the East Sea, solve territorial disputes peacefully and help with the enforcement of related international laws," Vinh was quoted by news website Dan Tri as saying.

Officials at the meeting have agreed to move on with an attempt to implement an Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was adopted in 2002.

The declaration includes guidelines for cooperation in environmental protection, search and rescue operations, transnational crime suppression, and ecosystem protection.

They discussed the overall relationship between the bloc and China, including trade, investment and cultural exchanges.

China and countries in the region have been caught in territorial disputes over the oil-rich waters for years.

The dispute has threatened ASEAN unity, with the bloc's ministerial meeting in Cambodia last July failing to deliver a joint statement for the first time in its 45-year history.

Cambodia China's ally, while five other ASEAN nations, including Vietnam, are disputing China's territorial claims in the sea.

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