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China says dialogue vital to tackle Korean peninsula crisis

China says dialogue vital to tackle Korean peninsula crisis

Critics, however, say the framework serves only as a brief outline of previously agreed principles and fails to mention concerns over China's newly built islands or an arbitration ruling previous year that invalidated Beijing's claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

The diplomat says the South China Sea may be settled faster and will likely not carry sensitive issues that China objects to because the ministers are aware of Beijing's crucial economic and trade relations with ASEAN member states. Many of the ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, are specially concerned about this issue.

In 2013, under Del Rosario's term as DFA secretary, the Philippines challenged China's maritime claim before an global arbitral tribunal, calling it "excessive" and "exaggerated". China has refused to recognize the ruling, based on a 1982 maritime treaty.

She warned that the ASEAN could end up as a passive bystander if it would choose neutrality over making a stand in the region. "It lies at forging a strategic vision for Southeast Asia, and the vision of what kind of neighborhood in the broader Indo-Pacific that it wants to reside in", she added.

The council has already imposed six rounds of sanctions that have failed to halt North Korea's drive to improve its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities. But there will be no direct confrontation, especially since the Philippines is chairman of ASEAN in this 2017 annual meeting.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan's new top diplomat, Taro Kono, also called on their Southeast Asian counterparts to rapidly negotiate a legally binding maritime code with China aimed at preventing an escalation of conflicts in one of the world's busiest waterways.

Critics say the agreed outline of key principles is lopsidedly in China's favor and suspect that Beijing may have consented to it to divert protests as it tries to complete land reclamations and fortify its man-made islands with a missile defense system.

Several ASEAN diplomats said that among the members who pushed for a communique that retained the more contentious elements was Vietnam, which has competing claims with China over the Paracel and Spratly archipelago and has had several spats with Beijing over energy concessions.

China has opposed including mention of its island-building or an arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing's historical claims to the strategic waters.

Disagreement partly over whether to include criticism, even indirectly, of China's increasingly assertive moves in the contested territories delayed the issuance of a joint communique of ASEAN foreign ministers after they held their annual meetings on Saturday in Manila.

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China has urged calm and restraint from all countries involved in the standoff.

The UNSC adopted the resolution Saturday to punish North Korea's two rounds of testing last month of what it claimed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Ahead of the meeting, a senior State Department official told reporters in Washington that the USA was moving to have North Korea suspended from the forum for going against its conflict-prevention objectives.

Some Asian countries, including South Korea, are hoping to have bilateral talks with North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho.

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