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Spratlys > News > Chinese News > July 2003

Category: @News  @China

'Code of conduct' for disputed islands

Monday, 4 November, 2002, 12:44 GMT
China has been erecting outposts on the islands
South-East Asian leaders and China have signed an agreement aimed at avoiding conflicts over the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The agreement was signed during an Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) summit in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.


Asean members
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam

All 10 member-states of Asean approved a code of conduct for the islands which was also sanctioned by China, which is not a member.

"It's a landmark agreement because the international community is interested in freedom of navigation," said Philippine Foreign Under-Secretary Lauro Baja.

"That's guaranteed in the declaration."

The fate of the islands, which are believed to be rich in offshore oil and gas deposits, has for years dogged relations between four Asean states - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam - and their giant neighbour China and Taiwan.

The Spratlys
100 tiny formerly uninhabited islets and reefs making up 5 km of actual land spread over 410,000 sq km of sea
Believed rich in oil and gas as well as fish stocks, and straddle busy sea lanes
China and Taiwan lay claim to all of them - Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines to part of them

A spokesman for the Cambodian foreign ministry, Chem Widhya, announced the draft "declaration of conduct", at the weekend.

"The text stipulates the countries of Asean and China restrain from any activities that would escalate or that would complicate the relations among themselves... and also to help any person in distress," he said.

The four Asean states involved in the dispute agreed to the declaration last month, but it was only approved by the remaining Asean states on Thursday, he said.

Friction over the islands most recently erupted in August when Vietnamese troops based on one islet fired warning shots at Philippine military planes.