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13 August 2017, 10:37 | Darnell Patrick
China leaning on Singapore to keep ASEAN calm over row
The top USA diplomat says the United States has been providing the Philippines with surveillance capabilities, training, information and aircraft to help it fight a monthslong siege of a southern city by pro-Islamic State group militants.
The Foreign Minister of Japan Taro Kono and the United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson say they will urge countries to strictly implement new UN sanctions against North Korea.
A Philippine government spokesman says Southeast Asian foreign ministers have endorsed the framework for a long-sought code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea.
Beijing has refused to recognize the Philippines' landmark arbitration case, which ruled that China has no legal basis for its expansive ownership claims in the South China Sea. The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed, in effect, to postpone dealing with its dispute with China in exchange for a massive amount of economic assistance from that nation.
Foreign ministers from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members plus Japan, China and South Korea agreed Monday they will bolster financial cooperation to promote economic stability in the region.
China has used land reclamation to build up islands and construct airports to back its claim of much of the waters off its coast.
The new research led by Bonnie Glaser with Center for Strategic & International Studies finds an estimated 3.37 trillion dollars in trade passed through the South China Sea in 2016.
The report said that China is sensitive to even a veiled reference by ASEAN to its seven reclaimed reefs, three of which have runways, missile batteries, radars and, according to some experts, the capability to accommodate fighter jets.
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Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, called the sanctions the most stringent on any country "in a generation". Still, Thornton says China's vote for the sanctions is a good step that shows Beijing understands the gravity of the problem.
The protracted quibblings delayed the statement's release, two Southeast Asian diplomats told the AP.
The regional grouping decides by consensus, and past year Cambodia and Laos, who receive massive aid from China, blocked any mention of the arbitration ruling in the final text.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, and has heavily militarized some islands in the region and expanded other territories with major land reclamation work, turning sandbars into islands and equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems. He said the framework is an outline and countries can put in more substantive aspects of the code when the negotiations start.
"In reality it was only one or two country's foreign ministers who expressed concerns of this kind", Wang told reporters.
"A non-binding COC would be a disaster of the first order".
"I said these two matters were extremely important and needed to be addressed ahead of any other political matters, and that we hoped for a positive, proactive response", Kang explained. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi would not comment on whether Beijing supported the code being legally binding.
The United States, Australia and Japan immediately weighed in, urging China and ASEAN "to ensure that the code of conduct be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with worldwide law". "If China opposes those actions, so be it".
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North Korea responded saying under no circumstances will it give up its nukes or put them on the negotiating table. Stop testing missiles for an "extended period", Tillerson said, and the USA might deem North Korea ready to talk.
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