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Beijing 'ready to work' with ASEAN on code of conduct

November 04, 2019 - Monday 6:11 PM by Agence France Presse

Article Banner Image LEADERS. (From left) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha pose for a group photo during the 22nd ASEAN-China Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. VATSYAYANA / AFP

Bangkok, Thailand | AFP | -- Beijing said Sunday it is "ready to work" with Southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the flashpoint South China Sea, where it is accused of building up military installations and bullying fellow claimants.

The agreement, set to be finished in 2021, will lay out conduct guidelines for the sea along with conflict resolution parameters.

On Sunday, China's premier Li Keqiang said the first reading of the document -- a chance for all members to comment on the draft terms -- was "a very important landmark."

"We stand ready to work with ASEAN countries building on the existing foundation and the basis to strive for new progress" on the guidelines, he said.

He added that China wanted to "maintain and uphold long-term peace and stability in the South China Sea."

The Philippines -- which has sparred with China in the sea -- said Sunday that Beijing is committed to the code, despite its broad claims to the waterway.

"It recognises the fact that if it doesn't agree to a code of conduct then there will be turmoil in the region," presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters in Bangkok on the sidelines of ASEAN.

The Philippines in 2016 filed a case with a UN-backed tribunal, which ultimately rejected Beijing's assertions in the sea.

Tensions in the waterway have flared in recent weeks between China and Vietnam, one of Beijing's most vocal critics on the issue.

Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims with China in the sea.

The three-day ASEAN summit in Bangkok closed Monday, with leaders expected to issue a joint statement that will likely include a section on the South China Sea. Agence France-Presse

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