An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing. Not only do they want the proposed code of conduct to be legally binding, but they've described China's activities as the "militarization of disputed features in a disputed sea". Describing the joint communiqué as a "negotiated document" adopted by all Asean members, the DFA chief also agreed with China's proposal to have a generally stable [South China Sea] and no major disruption from outside parties before they could announce the official start of the COC consultation in November.
"When the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, and if there is no major disruption from outside parties as the precondition, then we will consider during the November leaders' meeting - we will jointly announce - the official start of the [code of conduct] conversation", Wang told reporters after meeting with his Southeast Asian counterparts, who were in Manila ahead of the ASEAN Regional Forum on August 7.
He added that his position on the joint communiqué was based on the directives of President Rodrigo Duterte, who seeks "non-adversarial" approach to resolve the territorial disputes. A draft of the ASEAN ministerial statement seen by The Associated Press before it was finalized and made public provided a glimpse of the closed-door intramurals, with Vietnam insisting on stronger language against China's increasingly assertive actions in the busy waters.
China claims nearly the entire sea, which includes one of the world's most busy trade routes and sits stop valuable oil and gas reserves. China concluded talks with ASEAN for a negotiating framework for the nonaggression code, a baby step both sides hailed as a milestone.
Many are expecting that at the end of the ASEAN meetings this year, under the chairmanship of the Philippines, ASEAN will finalize the code of conduct that might be legally binding for all countries that have overlapping claims on some areas in the West Philippines Sea.
The event was jointly organised by embassies of ASEAN countries in South Africa, namely Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. "We're going forward", he said.
"It's an insult to the worldwide community as a whole, and it's a threat to peace and stability of the region".
In 2012, as chair of the ASEAN meet, Cambodia helped kill a similar statement on the South China Sea and for the first time in its 45-year history the body failed to issue a joint statement after a foreign ministers' meeting.