23 May 2017

News Story: Draft a sign of progress on South China Sea code of conduct

By Christopher Bodeen

BEIJING — A framework agreement between China and the Association of Southeast Asia Nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea marks a potentially significant step toward cooling tensions in the strategic waterway, analysts said Friday.

While details of the agreement reached Thursday weren't disclosed, it is a definite sign of progress on reaching a final code of conduct that the parties committed to 15 years ago, the experts said.

Until recently, progress has been slow amid disputes over the body of water that China claims virtually in its entirety.

For China, the code of conduct is a means to achieving its goal of keeping the US and its allies from intervening in the matter in the name of freedom of navigation or maintaining regional stability, said Huang Jing, an expert on the region at National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

"China can say, 'Look we have already reached agreements, are behaving ourselves, so no need for you Americans or others to come in and get in our business,'" Huang said in a telephone interview.

The agreement suits China's goal of managing rather than solving the disputes, with Beijing still certain that it will eventually reach solutions through bilateral talks, Huang said.

Read the full story at PhilStar