China, Philippines urged to abide by maritime ruling

China to endorse South China Sea code of conduct

But China, which claims virtually the entire South China Sea, is unlikely to allow the negotiations to move in that direction.

Bolivar stressed that the Philippines, which chairs ASEAN, prefers a legally binding COC, as earlier stated by Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

While China is the most active in terms of building up the territories it controls, both the Philippines and Vietnam have begun to follow Beijing's lead.

"From the Indian perspective, ASEAN occupies a central place in the security architecture of the Asia-Pacific region".

"Meaning adhered to and observed by all parties", he said.

The ministers also called for a proposed code of conduct in the South China Sea, to be negotiated by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to be "legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with global law".

China's territorial disputes in the strategic and potentially oil- and gas-rich waterway with Taiwan and ASEAN member states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam intensified after Beijing built islands in the disputed waters in recent years and reportedly started to install a missile defense system on them, alarming rival claimant states as well as the US and other Western governments.

When the communique was issued later, the ASEAN ministers surprisingly defied China's stance with indirect criticism of Beijing's land reclamation and military fortifications in the disputed waters.

Wang Yi said the climate in 2017 between states that have claims to the sea region had improved and was more conducive to peace.

The agreed two-page framework is broad and leaves wide scope for disagreement, urging a commitment to the "purposes and principles" of UNCLOS, for example, rather than adherence. Vietnam is on its own to have stronger language on the South China Sea.

"There's still no consensus", a diplomat said earlier during the weekend, according to Agence France-Presse.

Sovereign rights cover entitlements to fish and extract natural resources.

China insists the nations should stay out of what it says are purely bilateral disputes with its neighbours.

Opposition by China has repeatedly disrupted Vietnam's efforts to exploit offshore energy reserves, most recently in an area overlapping what Beijing considers its oil concessions.

China claims almost all of the sea, through which US$ 5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

Southeast Asia's top diplomats will meet with with their counterparts from the bloc's 17 dialogue partner states Monday afternoon at the ASEAN Regional Forum, a key security summit where representatives of the suspended six party talks - North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States - are expected to have a heated discussion on the imposition of sanctions against Pyongyang. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.