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07 August 2017, 01:10 | Damon Campbell
This time around, the channels of diplomatic sources at the Asean foreign ministers now meeting in Manila, are abuzz about the strong dissenting voice of Vietnam urging the 10-member regional bloc to take a stronger stance against China's Asian hegemonic ambitions and creeping expansionism in disputed waters.
The ministers urged North Korea to "to fully and immediately comply with its obligations arising from all the relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions".
FOREIGN ministers from Southeast Asia and China yesterday adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
The United States said it would also seek to build unified pressure on the North at the Manila event - known as the ASEAN Regional Forum.
"These developments seriously threaten peace, security and stability in the region and the world", the statement said.
All the afore-mentioned achievements testify to the fact that China and ASEAN have the wisdom and capability to properly manage the disputes, formulate a set of regional rules that we all recognize, and preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea, according to the Chinese foreign minister. Vietnam is on its own to have stronger language on the South China Sea.
He has ignored an worldwide court ruling dashing China's regional maritime claims in a case brought by his predecessor, helping him to secure $24 billion in loan and investment pledges from Beijing.
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China has in recent years expanded its presence in the sea by building the artificial islands, which are capable of holding military bases.
The Philippines, under previous president Benigno Aquino, had been one of the most vocal critics of China and filed a case before a UN-backed tribunal. This in turn led to offers of billions of dollars in investments or aid from China.
The issue was also likely to top the agenda when ASEAN ministers meet with their dialogue partners, including the United States, Japan, China and Russian Federation for Asia's largest security forum on Monday.
"There is no consensus yet", the diplomat said, adding the drafting committee was tasked with continuing the negotiations on Saturday night.
A code of conduct has always been discussed, with both sides agreeing in 2002 on a loose set of guidelines known as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the region.
The event is taking place as Philippine security forces battle Islamic State-aligned gunmen who have since May been occupying parts of Marawi, the nation's main Muslim city about 800 kilometres (500 miles) to the south of Manila.
The US is expected to persuade Putrajaya to support its move to isolate North Korea over its nuclear missile programme when US secretary of state Rex Tillerson visits Malaysia next week.
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