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Outsiders lose ground as China, ASEAN members discuss code of conduct in S.China Sea

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Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday urged outside countries to respect the efforts and achievements of China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries in safeguarding peace and stability as negotiations progressed on a single draft text of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. 

Wang issued the call at the 25th ASEAN Regional Forum foreign ministers' meeting, the Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday. 

Outside countries could play a more constructive role in helping maintain regional peace and stability, Wang asserted.

"Certain non-regional countries, mainly the US, have been sending massive strategic weaponry into this region, especially into the South China Sea, showing off military might and putting security threats and pressure on regional countries, China included, which is the biggest force pushing for militarization in the region," Wang was quoted as saying at the sidelines of the 51st ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in Singapore by the Chinese foreign ministry website on Saturday. 

Against such a backdrop, China and other countries in the region have "undertaken steps to put in place defensive facilities," Wang said. 

Wang underscored Beijing's rights of self-preservation and self-defense.

To label such legitimate acts as "militarization" was to "confound right and wrong," he reportedly said.

Wang hailed the fact that China and ASEAN countries have reached a single negotiating text, adding that code talks could accelerate if there were no external interference. 

The draft document showcases the South China Sea situation has taken on a positive direction towards stability and that US-led non-regional countries cannot easily break China-ASEAN relations as region policymakers have recognized such cooperation is truly win-win, Xu Liping, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the Global Times on Sunday.

In October, China and ASEAN will hold a joint maritime exercise, Xinhua said Saturday.

"It sends a strong message that the countries in the region are capable of managing differences and a cooperative basis has been founded for unprecedented mutual trust in the security field, leaving US-led external military interference with no ground to stand on any more," Gu Xiaosong, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

RCEP by end of year

Wang attended the ASEAN Plus Three meeting including foreign ministers of ASEAN 10 member states. 

China, Japan and South Korea on Saturday morning announced at a press conference that top diplomats have agreed to speed up negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

Concrete progress in the talks could be achieved by the end of this year and benefit all countries in the region, the foreign ministry website said. 

The partnership comprises ASEAN countries and Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

"Countries involved in potentially the world's largest economic bloc, especially ASEAN countries that rely on exports to stimulate economic growth, will display greater and greater enthusiasm for RCEP as a way to relieve economic frustrations brought on by deglobalization, trade and trade protectionism imposed by the US side," Gu said.

RCEP negotiation was launched in 2012, and the last major obstacle to implementation was how much India was willing to open up its market, Xu said. 

Milestone progress could be made if India decided to open up its market to a level the same as other potential RCEP member states, Xu noted.



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