U.S. pledges $300 million in security funding for ASEAN nations

Howard TerryAug 05, 2018

However, Beijing insists on outside countries being excluded in what analysts said was a bid to diminish U.S. influence, AFP reports.

China claims almost all the strategically vital sea, including waters approaching the coasts of Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Negotiations on the code of conduct began in March and both sides arrived at the first draft during talks held two months ago at China's Changsha city, said Balakrishnan.

"At our meeting in Singapore with Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran, we discussed bilateral and regional issues", he said.

Australia, as a dialogue partner of ASEAN, fully supports the bloc's development goals in the long term, she affirmed, adding that the Australian Government backs ASEAN in implementing the integration connectivity initiatives, maintaining its central role as well as peace and stability in the region.

The meeting took place as ASEAN foreign ministers gather in Singapore for a regional meeting.

A senior ASEAN diplomat involved in the talks said negotiations on the regional code could start in Cambodia as early as this month.

Singapore's navy hosted the drills at a training center in Changi naval base, where officers coordinated their force deployments and helicopter landings on navy ships.

Australia has offered diplomatic support to United States "freedom of navigation" voyages through the South China Sea and its own vessels encountered Chinese warships there in April.

Thailand, one of Washington's oldest allies, is another major regional power perceived to have moved closer to China after US relations came under strain because of concerns about freedoms under its military-dominated government.

While there have been small signs of progress since the summit, news reports indicate Pyongyang is continuing to build rockets and there have been concerns that the enforcement of United Nations sanctions on the North is being relaxed by some member states.

However, the drills should not involve countries outside the region "unless the parties concerned are notified beforehand and express no objection".

MALAYSIA is looking forward to the expedition of the agreement on the Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea, said Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

World leaders such as U.S. President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to gather in this city-state in November for a larger ASEAN-led summit.

Beijing also suggested that China and Asean could carry out joint oil and gas exploration in the waters but again proposed that companies from countries outside the region be excluded from such activities, the document showed.

"We reiterated the priority placed by ASEAN on the RCEP as a centrepiece of its external economic relations, particularly at a time of growing uncertainty in global trade", the joint communique said.

This meeting is part of the side meetings accompanying the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

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