Asean is set on completing a framework for a code of conduct (COC) on maritime disputes by June to "maintain an oasis of peace and stability" in the South China Sea amid a time of great global uncertainty, said Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
"We can't control the agenda of the superpowers. But we do need to make sure, to the best extent possible, that we maintain an oasis of peace and stability in this part of the world," he said yesterday on the sidelines of a two-day Asean foreign ministers' meeting here, the first to be hosted by the Philippines as Asean chair.
"More specifically, that means that some urgent homework needs to be done," he added.
"We have a deadline, in the first half of this year, to try to complete the framework for the COC In the South China Sea."
His remarks came amid growing tension in the South China Sea, after a US aircraft carrier strike group began patrols in the disputed waterway last Saturday.
Yesterday, China said it is "consistently opposed to relevant countries threatening and damaging the sovereignty and security of littoral countries under the flag of freedom of navigation and overflight".
Asean and China have been holding talks on a COC to ease tensions arising from competing claims over the South China Sea for more than a decade.
But talks have been slow, with consensus among Asean states elusive and China insisting on terms such as that any code should not hinder its naval patrols.