China, ASEAN diplomats to tackle South China Sea in June

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 23) — Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the Philippines, are meeting with China in June to discuss the South China Sea dispute.

The 15th senior officials' meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea will be on June 27 in Changsha City, Hunan Province in China. The joint working group's meeting will also be held on that day.

This was announced by China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang in his regular press briefing Friday.

"China and the ASEAN member states will have a thorough discussion on the implementation of the DOC, maritime practical cooperation and consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC)," Geng said.

The Philippines is the country coordinator in negotiations between China and the ASEAN for a legally binding code of conduct to identify what claimant countries can and cannot do in the disputed waters.

The Philippine government has yet to announce the start of negotiations for the COC. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on April 18 said the parties are still "focusing on how to go about" it.

China and the ASEAN already signed in 2002 a Declaration on the COC of Parties in the South China Sea, but they have yet to agree on its implementation. Last year's meeting saw the completion of a draft framework for the COC.

"Currently, thanks to the concerted efforts made by China and regional countries, the situation in the South China Sea has cooled down and is stable, demonstrating a sound and positive momentum," Geng said.

However, some fishermen claim they are still being harassed, their catch being seized, by members of the Chinese Coast Guard in Scarborough Shoal.

Also known as Panatag Shoal, Scarborough is one of the islets and reefs in the South China Sea that lie within the country's 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The July 2016 arbitration ruling said the waters off Scarborough is a traditional fishing ground of Filipinos, Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen.

China said these are isolated incidents and erring coast guards will be punished.

China refuses to acknowledge the landmark ruling and continues to claim the South China Sea in its entirety. President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to bring this up with China within his term.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Taiwan and ASEAN member states Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have competing claims in the South China Sea.