China and the Association of Southeast Asia Nations or ASEAN are set to clash further over the rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea as the Asean Regional Forum security meeting holds its meeting today (5 August).
A total of 27 countries, including the US and China, will be participating in the forum. The US has been a strong critic of China's ,
The 10-bloc nation grouping is pushing for intensified efforts to draw up a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, a step forward to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea which was signed by all parties, including China in 2002. The declaration, among others, reaffirmed the parties' commitment to international law.
Both parties have since been working to draw up an official and binding Code of Conduct but this has been a slow and ongoing process.
China, Taiwan and Asean members, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei, are all in dispute over the maritime boundaries in the resource rich territory.
However China is adamant that the issue is kept off the agenda of the ongoing Asean Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, insisting that the matter should be thrashed out at the senior officials' level.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said although there has been progress in consultations between Asean and China on the Code of Conduct, the pace has to be hastened.
"We urge our senior officials to intensify their consultations so that the CoC can be established as soon as possible," he told reporters at the end of the Asean Ministers Meeting which was held yesterday (4 August).
He said the ministers also discussed ways to address the erosion of trust and confidence among parties following recent developments in the South China Sea, including land reclamation and an escalation of tensions on the ground, the Star reported.
"We agreed that it is imperative that this matter is handled constructively and explored the possibility of putting in place preventive measures to ensure that disagreements among parties do not escalate into a situation that undermines peace, security and stability," Anifah said.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi however told reporters after meeting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak: "The CoC should not be discussed at this Asean meeting, we have our special officials' meeting and working group."
Philippines has strong words for China
The Philippines, which is boosting its air force capabilities and turning the former US naval base, Subic Bay into a naval base again, had strong words for China.
"As we speak, we see no let-up on the unilateral and aggressive activities of our northern neighbour in the South China Sea. The massive reclamation activities covering at least 800 hectares and construction of facilities in the reclaimed features have undermined peace, security and stability," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
Philippines would only agree to stop any land reclamation and construction activities if China agreed to do the same, saying that it would promote the US proposal made earlier this year that all claimant countries halt reclamation, construction and any aggressive action that could heighten tensions.
"We have to emphasise, however, that this should not in any way legitimise the status of the features reclaimed by China," he added.
China seized Scarborough Shoal from Manila in 2012 after a three month standoff with the Philippine navy.