China cancels Vietnam meeting over South China Sea spat

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From August 5 to 8, Mr Brownlee will attend ASEAN-New Zealand Ministerial consultations, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum.

Southeast Asian ministers meeting this week are set to avoid tackling the subject of Beijing's arming and building of manmade South China Sea islands, preparing to endorse a framework for a code of conduct that is neither binding nor enforceable.

Australia, the United States and Japan have urged South-East Asia and China to ensure that a code of conduct on the South China Sea they have committed to draw up will be legally binding, and said they strongly opposed "coercive unilateral actions".

Wang made these remarks after he and ASEAN foreign ministers on Sunday adopted the framework of a COC in the South China Sea.

This is in apparent reference to the United States, which China has repeatedly criticized for its interference in the South China Sea disputes.

In his remarks at the event, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi congratulated ASEAN on its 50th anniversary and expressed his delight at the bloc's development, extending his best wishes for it in the next five decades.

"The ministers further urged ASEAN member states and China to ensure that the COC be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with global law", the joint statement read.

The tense talks came after Vietnam, which also claims parts of the strategically vital sea, insisted that tough language be inserted into the statement expressing concern over Chinese land reclamation in the contested waters.

The South China Sea has always been the most thorny issue for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with different opinions among its 10 members on how to address China's assertiveness and its building and heavy arming of its artificial islands in disputed waters.

Some critics and diplomats believe China's sudden interest in the code after 15 years of delays is to drag out the negotiating process to buy time to complete its strategic objectives in the South China Sea, through which more than $3 trillion of ship-borne trade passes annually.

"Regarding what kind of COC will be produced, that is up to the discussion by the 11 parties- China and Asean countries".

Over 64 percent of China's maritime trade transited the waterway in 2016, while almost 42 percent of that of Japan's passed through the South China Sea in the same year.

Foreign ministers of ASEAN nations congratulated China on the success of the recent Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, thanked China for its support on ASEAN's community building, recognized the positive progress of ASEAN-China ties in the past year and agreed with the depth and achievements of the China-ASEAN relations.

ASEAN members will want a legally binding code, possibly ratified by their respective legislatures, with an enforcement scheme and ways of monitoring any incidents, analysts say.

"As long as we commit to dialogue and consultation and worldwide law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of th Seas, we will be able to stabilize the situation and find a way out". That same month, Vietnamese coastguard vessels held their first joint exercises with their Japanese counterparts, simulating an operation to thwart illegal fishing in the South China Sea.

The regional grouping decides by consensus, and a year ago Cambodia and Laos, who receive massive aid from China, blocked any mention of the arbitration ruling in the final text.

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