Talks on S. China Sea code of conduct getting concrete achievements — Chinese Premier

BEIJING-- Talks between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea have made concrete achievements, according to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

"We will continue working on that," Li said in over two-hour press conference after the closing of the Fifth Session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) on Wednesday.

The Chinese Premier said China is hopeful that peace and stability in the South China Sea will be achieved "through dialogue."

"Let the related sides resolve disagreements through dialogue and for every side to work together to safeguard the peace, stability and development of the region," he said.

The ASEAN, which celebrates its 50th founding anniversary and with the Philippines as chair this year, leads the Code of Conduct discussion that started last month.

The Declaration on the COC of the Parties in the South China Sea was signed by all ASEAN members and China on Nov. 4, 2002 with exercise of self-restraint and non-militarization as some of the listed principles.

China and the ASEAN countries -- the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia -- are claiming parts of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China which is believed to be rich in natural resources particularly oil and gas.

In July last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines' arbitration case filed against China, saying China's all-encompassing nine-dash line claim over the SCS has no legal basis.

The case was filed four years ago under the leadership of former President Benigno Aquino III but his successor incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte decided to temporarily shelve the ruling shelve the ruling to allow direct talks with Chinese leaders led by President Xi Jinping.

President Duterte visited Beijing in October last year, a move that rejuvenated the Philippines-China relation and allowed the Filipino fishermen to enter the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

The Filipino leader's trip to China has in fact resulted in USD 24 billion investment pledges and funding, not to mention over 2,000 tons of imported tropical fruits and 1,000 tourists groups that visited the Philippines in the last six months.

Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attributed the renewed China-Philippines ties to President Duterte.

Premier Li said ASEAN, including the Philippines, is China's priority in promoting diplomacy to its Asian neighbors.

"We support the construction of ASEAN community and their central role in regional cooperation," Li told the local and foreign media, most of them covered the two-week 12th NPC's fifth session.

"We want the region to be stable and orderly region that can reach consensus through negotiations, manage conflicts and have the wisdom to resolve its conflicts," he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency