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Terrorism & Security

China, ASEAN reach South China Sea agreement

The deal between Chinese officials and representatives of Southeast Asian countries is a big step, but doesn't address the key source of tension: territorial claims.

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Chinese officials said that the trip ran counter to a nonbinding agreement between China and ASEAN countries reached in 2002, according to the AP.

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The Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea mandates that disputes in the South China Sea be settled through "friendly coordination and negotiation" and that signatories "refrain from activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability in the region," Xinhua reports.

Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that the lawmakers' "sovereignty mission" was not a violation of international law because they were visiting Philippine territory. However, the Philippine government was also careful to distance itself from the visit, explaining that it was not sanctioned by the House of Representatives and that the lawmakers were going of their own volition, according to Filipino news outlet ABS-CBN News.

The US has waded into the dispute as well, protesting China's efforts to gain control of the entire body of water on the grounds that it interferes with "freedom of navigation," the Financial Times reports. China has rejected US efforts to be a part of negotiations on the South China Sea, insisting that the issues are bilateral.

Prior to this week's ASEAN meeting, Sens. John Kerry, (D) of Massachusetts, and John McCain, (R) of Arizona, said in a letter to a Chinese foreign policy official, "We are concerned that a series of naval incidents in recent months has raised tensions in the region. … If appropriate steps are not taken to calm the situation, future incidents could escalate, jeopardizing the vital national interests of the United States.”

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