Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Singapore naval drill in South China Sea shouldn't hurt us: China

Singapore naval drill in South China Sea shouldn't hurt us: China

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) approved a draft framework for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea on Thursday.

In 2013, China declared a formal Air Defense Identification Zone covering airspace over the islands and overlapping with airspace claimed by Japan.

In this week's analysis and commentary, Mira Rapp-Hooper of the Center for New American Security and Charles Edel of the U.S. Naval War College weigh "the high cost of stopping Freedom of Navigation operations" in the South China Sea. We do not want to quarrel with you.

China-Philippines relations have seen "a lovely turn around", Liu told the press Thursday, adding that China highly appreciates the positive, friendly and constructive attitude adopted by the Duterte government.

Japan said Friday it scrambled fighter jets after a Chinese vessel sailing in disputed waters launched a drone, the latest bout of tension in a longstanding territorial row.

That draft does not call for a legally binding code of conduct as some ASEAN countries had called for, Storey said, potentially weakening its impact.

"No matter what the final draft agreement looks like, the devil will be in working out the details", said Storey, foreseeing a long, hard negotiation on the final document.

Asked whether the agreement would be binding, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters: "I can not give you a definite answer now".

The Chinese foreign ministry first made the announcement that a framework agreement had been reached by consensus following a meeting between then eleven parties in the Chinese city of Guiyang.

China is trying to wean itself off coal, given devastating air pollution that is harming health and undermining the Communist Party's public support, but has to import huge amounts of gas from Russian Federation and Central Asia.

The code framework would envisage a round-the-clock hotline and urge defence officials to find ways to follow the code, Chee Wee Kiong of Singapore's foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The participants have not mentioned dates for the adoption of a full code of conduct, and while Huang said he thought the sides could act as early as this year to seize the positive momentum, Storey said a final agreement was likely "some years off". "We have a very open attitude to normal exchanges between various countries", she said when Indian media, present at the meeting, asked for China's reaction to the joint naval exercise of India and Singapore.

Many worldwide non-claimant nations, particularly the United States, however, want the South China Sea to remain as global waters considering the fact that a high proportion of the world's trade passes through this region.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea (SCS), including the islands more than 800 miles from the Chinese mainland. The Philippine government maintained that it owns the territory where Filipino troops and villagers have lived for decades.

Noting the South China sea issue has "returned to the positive trajectory" in bilateral relations, Romana said in his opening remarks that the Philippines is confident in the resilience of ties with China.

"It does not mean the differences have disappeared".

USA officials called the incident, in which the surveillance plane was buzzed within 150 feet, "unprofessional", while China said that United States surveillance near the border might lead to "misunderstandings or misjudgments or cause unexpected incidents at sea or in the air".

Beijing is also eager to shift the debate over the South China Sea away from the July 2016 ruling by a five-judge tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which about US$5 trillion in sea-borne trade passes every year.

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