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Chinese envoy optimistic of code of conduct framework by mid-2017

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said that the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea will be completed within the year. Christina Mendez, File

MANILA, Philippines (Philippines News Agency) — The adoption of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, probably in the middle of this year, will promote peace and stability in the region as well as further strengthen Philippines-China relations.

“We're making progress, I think we're going to have a framework of a COC probably by middle this year,” Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said Monday night on the sidelines of the Chinese New Year Celebration at the Shangri-la Hotel in Makati City.

Zhao said that he sees progress in the crafting of a COC which will serve as a barometer in attaining progress and prosperity in the region.

He stressed that China's policy is peace and stability in the region, which includes the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese media earlier said that war is imminent if the United States block their access.

“I don't think that it is advisable or wise for China and the US to engage in a confrontation. Let's wait and see,” Zhao noted.

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He even described the diplomatic protest of the Philippines on the South China Sea as not just improving but “developing rapidly.”

He added that they are looking forward to the next visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to China this year, as they see a brighter future of the two nations' relations.

The Chinese ambassador to Manila also assured the Philippine government that they will cooperate and help in Duterte's fight against terrorism and illegal drugs.

Zhao said China will provide the Philippine government the arms it needs.

“I think both sides are discussing particularly what the Philippine side needs. Of course, we'll provide what is needed here but not big arms, small ones only," the ambassador said.

The envoy, however, said that he is not aware of the details and specifics of the arms talks but what he can say is that China can provide speed boats fully equipped with sophisticated weapons.

Asked about the issue on diplomatic protests, Zhao said their spokesperson had explained that the two governments will focus on the positive side.

“Our spokesperson has already expressed our positions but please look at the positive. We already agreed to bring the issue back to direct bilateral channels, so don't worry,” he pointed out

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