China warns ASEAN vs 'outside parties' in South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines – China warned the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Sunday, August 6, against "outside parties" in drafting a Code of Conduct (COC) in the disputed South China Sea.

In an interview with reporters, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said ASEAN and China "will jointly announce the official start of the COC consultations" in November only "when the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, and if there is no major disruption from outside parties."

This is in apparent reference to the United States, which China has repeatedly criticized for its interference in the South China Sea disputes.

Wang made these remarks after he and ASEAN foreign ministers on Sunday adopted the framework of a COC in the South China Sea.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Robespierre Bolivar confirmed this development in a press conference after the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting on Sunday.

The foreign ministers of ASEAN and China also agreed to pursue a "3-step initiative" toward an actual COC. Wang said it was China that proposed this 3-step initiative.

Non-legally binding COC?

Bolivar listed the following as the 3 steps: 

The framework COC is a huge step toward finalizing the COC itself.

The proposed COC is an agreement to ensure peace and stability in the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea. 

The COC is supposed to be the legally binding version of the non-binding Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said he is wary of a "legally binding" COC, as he prefers the document to first be a non-binding "gentleman's agreement." 

Signed in 2002, the DOC urges claimant countries in the South China Sea to exercise self-restraint and not to escalate tension in the disputed waters.

It is unclear how a non-legally binding COC is different from the non-binding DOC. –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at