ASEAN Regional Forum to mull approach to North Korea

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The role of the Philippines as 2017 chair of ASEAN has helped China keep a lid on discord.

Third, the leaders of ASEAN and China are expected to announce the formal start of negotiations of the COC at the summit in November.

Bolivar said the Philippines prefers a legally binding code of conduct but the consensus in ASEAN is that at the very least, the code that is still to be negotiated should be substantive and effective.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, elected previous year, has backed down from his insistence that China abandon the shoals at the heart of the tribunal's decision, preferring instead to accept significant Chinese economic assistance.

After their own day of meetings on Saturday, ASEAN Foreign Ministers released a joint statement expressing "grave concerns" over the North's first two intercontinental ballistic missile tests conducted last month.

Another diplomat, however, said there was no real disagreement on the contents of the communique and stressed that the initial draft was seen by some members as weak.

Although it's not an ASEAN member, China can exert its influence on allies like ASEAN member Cambodia to reject any move it deems inimical to its interests.

Earlier Sunday, China Foreign Minister Wang Yi said ministers had agreed on a three-step process for the development of the Code of Conduct.

"From what I gathered during my meetings with the 10 ASEAN foreign ministers, what I felt is that they have displayed a positive attitude including on the issue of the South China Sea", Wang told reporters at a media briefing yesterday.

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang, since the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations in 1991 "political mutual trust has been strengthened and fruitful outcomes have been reaped in pragmatic cooperation" with the concerted efforts of both sides.

Susan Thornton, acting Assistant Secretary of State East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in Manila that China's support showed it recognised the gravity of the situation, but it was incumbent upon Beijing to ensure the sanctions were implemented.

Regarding what kind of COC will be produced, Wang said that is up to the discussion by the 11 parties - China and the ASEAN member countries. While China had its own regional trade accord, the US-led pact had become the preferred agreement, with several nations that had missed out on the initial round of negotiations expressing interest in joining. "We don't have much engagement with them". "We also fully recognize the trend towards relaxation in the South China Sea", he added.

The case, brought against China by the Philippines, seemed like a turning point in China's disputes with a host of regional players, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Would Tillerson trade pleasantries with his North Korean counterpart as they cross paths at the regional gathering, or potentially even sit for a meeting?

The foreign ministers also underscored the need for claimants to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with global law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

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