ASEAN foreign ministers have issued a joint statement that does not say whether a code of conduct for the South China Sea is legally binding for them and China.
At a meeting in the Philippine capital Manila on Sunday, foreign ministers from ASEAN and China formally approved a draft code of conduct for the South China Sea. They agreed to start negotiations on the provisions of the code with the aim of preventing maritime conflicts.
During a meeting the previous day, ASEAN foreign ministers worked on adjusting differences of opinion between Vietnam and Cambodia.
Vietnam insisted on clarifying in a joint statement that the code is legally binding.
Vietnam has had conflicts with China over rights of possession in the South China Sea.
But Cambodia objected to Vietnam’s stance. Cambodia places priority on relations with China.
The statement issued on Sunday evening used the expression “effective” instead of “legally binding”.
It appeared to take into consideration China’s position of wanting to maintain unlimited activities in the disputed waters.
ASEAN nations and China must now work out effective rules for the disputed waters.