CHINA TOPIX

Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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ASEAN, China Agree to Set up Telephone Hotline to Avoid Military Clashes in South China Sea

ASEAN, China Agree to Set Up Telephone Hotline to Avoid Military Clashes in South China Sea

(Photo : Getty Images) China and ASEAN countries have created a telephone hotline to prevent chances of military clashes in the disputed South China Sea.

In a bid to avoid accidental military clashes in the South China Sea, China, and Southeast Asian nations on Wednesday agreed to set up a communications hotline that would be operational soon, Xinhua reported.

Political observers said the agreement, which was reached during the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting hosted by Laos this week, emphasized the difficulty in resolving the maritime territorial dispute among the organization's member-countries and China.

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The pact did not mention the Hague-based arbitration court ruling that rejected Beijing's claims to the strategic waterway. China has repeatedly said it that does not recognize the court's jurisdiction and had dismissed the verdict as "null and void."

Statement

The 10-member ASEAN nations, along with the Philippines and claimant-countries Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, have issued a statement affirming their respect for international law.

Observers said the statement was crafted in a way that it would not provoke dissent or offense against China.

The decision to omit any discussion of the recent Hague court ruling during the summit reportedly pleased Beijing, but it dealt a setback for Japan and the United States who both have called on China to abide by the ruling.

Outcome

"China will be satisfied with the outcome, as will ASEAN," said Ian Storey, Southeast Asia political expert at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

Storey said the limited coverage of the agreement reflects the claimant-countries' shift in interest from upholding the arbitration court ruling to maintaining regional stability in the disputed area.

A spokesperson for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that he raised some points on matters related to the South China Sea to his regional counterparts during the meeting but did not touch on the international tribunal ruling.

The summit was the first international gathering of world leaders attended by Duterte since assuming the presidency on June 30.

Arbitration court ruling

"The Philippines, we are a smaller country, a poorer country. You have to be conservative. And now we're in a position of strength because of the arbitral ruling," said Martin Andanar, spokesman for the Duterte administration.

He, however, pointed out that Duterte insists on holding bilateral talks with China as well as working amicably with everyone to resolve the dispute.

Duterte has vowed not to bring up the court ruling before any international forum saying he wants to invoke the legality of the ruling once he comes face-to-face with Chinese negotiators.

War

He also said that war was not an option to settle the maritime claims to the disputed sea with China.

Last month, Duterte sent his special envoy, Fidel Ramos, to negotiate with China to pave the way for possible formal talks to begin between the two sides.

Although the president said he hoped the formal talks would commence within this year, Chinese authorities said they would prefer for the talks to start earlier.

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