China president wants closeness with ASEAN nations

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But the Asian giant had always been perceived as delaying negotiations with Asean for the maritime code to allow it to complete its land reclamations in the South China Sea without any regulatory restrictions. Now that an agreement has been reached, Beijing seems still to have the upper hand.

Wang's stipulations again call into question China's commitment to formulating an effective code of conduct. "It lacks teeth because China has opposed making it legally binding and refused to include a dispute settlement mechanism", said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

Bloomberg reported that "China saw Vietnam as pushing for" language critical of China in the code of conduct, so the Chinese foreign minister cancelled a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart "at the last minute".

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He doesn't want to leave and I'm happy he wants to stay. "One was a corner, one on build-up, one on a corner again", he said.

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U.S. government negotiators agreed to these allowances because Chinese companies weren't competitive internationally at the time. On Saturday, administration officials said the new trade measure was "totally unrelated" to events involving North Korea.

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The market also awaited U.S. consumer inflation data on Friday that would offer more clues about the pace of the U.S. Ongoing global glut concerns lingered in oil markets despite a bigger-than-expected draw in USA crude inventories.

In response, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano also told ASEAN journalists that China is playing a very positive role in the region because China's growing economy has fuelled the tourism industry in Southeast Asia.

The three went further and reasserted their commitment to freedom of navigation, a step likely to infuriate China.

Cambodia Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn on Wednesday defended the government's stance on the disputed South China Sea, saying the country had acted in an "independent and neutral" manner at the recent ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Manila, despite accusations that the Kingdom had helped water down a communiqué addressing China's territorial ambitions in contested waters. "The three countries will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows", their statement said. "We're going forward", he said. The latest framework has not been made public, but a leaked document says the code is "not an instrument to settle territorial disputes or maritime delimitation issues".

Deputy FM Nguyen Quoc Dung noted that together with many other countries, Vietnam raised concerns regarding the situation in the East Sea, including the activities of reclamation, construction and militarization, while calling for maintaining principles and the stance regarding the East Sea, already specified in ASEAN documents, as well as agreed upon by ASEAN and its partners, especially the peaceful settlement of disputes, without the use or threat to use force, while respecting worldwide law, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and diplomatic and legal process. Both failed to prevent the undertaking of huge reclamation and construction projects that are now complicating the situation. "It doesn't mean we're giving up with legally binding".

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