China says talks on South China Sea are going smoothly

A Chinese warship fired a water cannon at the Philippine boat M/L Kalayaan during a resupply mission at Ayungin (Thomas II) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on December 10, 2023. The boat was towed back to port without completing its mission. Due to significant damage from the attack. Photo from PCG

MANILA, Philippines – China said Thursday that consultations on a „long-delayed” code of conduct (COC) for the South China Sea are proceeding smoothly.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Mao Ning made the revelation at a regular press conference after being asked how optimistic the ministry was for a new round of talks on the disputed waters.

„China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are working towards the adoption of the COC on the South China Sea, which is an important step in the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea. Consultations on the COC are proceeding smoothly,” Mao said.

Read: Talks on South China Sea Code of Conduct will take time, says DFA

Similarly, he mentioned that the second reading of the COC has been completed and the third reading has started.

The parties, according to Mao, adopted guidelines to speed up consultations on the framework.

“The South China Sea issue is very complex and faces external interference. We hope that ASEAN countries will work with us towards the set goal and speed up consultations for the early adoption of the COC,” Mao said.

The Philippines and ASEAN countries are working with China to develop a framework to establish a COC for the disputed South China Sea.

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Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu earlier noted that talks on the COC were ongoing, but he stressed that it would take time because „it's a very formal process” that could not be rushed.

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