China wants military drills with ASEAN in disputed sea, excluding US

China wants military drills with ASEAN in disputed sea, excluding US

China wants military drills with ASEAN in disputed sea, excluding US

A number of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have overlapping claims to islands in the sea, one of the world's busiest waterways.

Pompeo is also focusing on another major regional flashpoint at the forum - rival claims in the South China Sea and China's growing presence there.

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

Asean and China's foreign ministers were able to agree on the single text in Singapore on Thursday, a significant step toward establishing more binding COC over the contentious sea.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signed the Instrument of Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in South East Asia at the annual gathering of ASEAN's foreign ministers in Singapore on Thursday.

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

China and ASEAN announced Thursday they had agreed on a draft negotiating text as part of efforts to forge a code of conduct to govern behaviour in the sea, which analysts said represented some progress after years of negotiations.

The draft, however, showed that Beijing wanted to stage military drills with ASEAN in the seas that excluded outside countries, a move analysts said was aimed at diminishing United States influence. The U.S. has deployed ships and jets to patrol the waters to promote freedom of navigation and overflight.

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

China, however, shows no sign of bending to Washington's pressure.

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China has previously used allies within Asean, principally Cambodia and Laos, to block consensus and joint resolutions on the South China Sea dispute.

Critics say the consensus approach to negotiations on the code could mean a final deal is still years off and works in China's favour as a delaying tactic to ease scrutiny of its militarisation of man-made islands in the region.

China says the United States is trying to stop the rise of a competitor and it has imposed its own tariffs on U.S. goods.

"We welcome the further strengthening (of) our cooperation in cybersecurity with Russia through the issuance of the statement of ASEAN and Russian foreign ministers", the draft of the ten-member communique stated, adding that the title of the statement could change depending on negotiations.

However, opposition has weakened in other parts of Southeast Asia, with analysts saying that countries are keen to attract Chinese investment and are anxious about US commitment to the region under US President Donald Trump.

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