China, ASEAN leaders OK draft negotiating text for South China Sea code of conduct

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 3) — Policies on claimant countries' behavior in the South China Sea are a step closer to being ratified, after a draft was agreed upon by leaders of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China.

The Single Draft Code of Conduct (COC) Negotiating Text  was brought up during the meeting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Singapore, according to the joint communique issued Thursday.

"In this regard, we emphasised the need to maintain an environment conducive to the COC negotiations," the statement from the ministers read.

ASEAN ministers also discussed matters in the widely-contested waters, taking note of concerns of land reclamation and activities in the South China Sea. This year, China has deployed missile structures and bomber planes in the waters, causing other claimant countries such as the Philippines to express concern.

The ministers said these actions "have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region."

The COC will define what the six claimants to the South China Sea can and cannot do in the waters. Prior to that, China and ASEAN signed a Declaration of Conduct in 2002, but it was only last year that they finally agreed on a framework for the COC.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Taiwan and ASEAN members Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have competing claims in the South China Sea which is believed to be rich in resources.