China, ASEAN agree on South China Sea code framework

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 19) — China and Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) have completed the framework for the Code of Conduct (COC) for the disputed South China Sea.

In a statement on May 18, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said the Philippines welcomes the completion of the drafting of the framework.

"We reaffirm our commitment to completing an effective Code using this agreed upon framework as the basis," Bolivar said.

Bolivar said on Friday the issue of the nature of the COC will be discussed when negotiations on the actual COC begin, which is after the framework is approved by the leaders during the summit in the Philippines in November.

The completion of the draft framework marked a significant development in the 15-year process of drafting a legally binding code for claimants in the disputed waters.

According to state-owned Xinhua News Agency, the consensus came during the 14th Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

The meeting was held ahead of the upcoming China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in July, the state news agency reported.

The Philippines, chairman for this year's ASEAN, earlier promised to finish the framework in June.

The framework, which represents a crucial phase in the entire COC negotiation process, has laid a solid foundation for further negotiations, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told Xinhua.

The Chinese state news said all parties agreed to "continue to implement the DOC and reaffirmed plans to solve disputes via negotiation, manage differences with a regional framework of regulations, deepen maritime cooperation, and move forward COC negotiation to safeguard peace and stability of the region."

The meeting approved a paper on the establishment of three technological committees, agreed on outcomes of the trial application of the China-ASEAN senior diplomats' hotline platform, and updated the 2016-2018 work plan, Xinhua added.

CNN Philippines' correspondent JC Gotinga contributed to this report.

This story was updated on May 19 to reflect Bolivar's statement.