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'Candid' talks on South China Sea expected in ASEAN meet

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers, from left, Malaysia Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Myanmar Foreign Minister U Kyaw Tin, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinal, Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Philippine acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Brunei Darussalam Foreign Minister Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Cambodia Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, Laos Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith, ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh pose for a group photo during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Friday, April 28, 2017. AP/Aaron Favila, file

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign ministers of Association of Southeast Asian Nations members and dialogue partners are expected to discuss regional concerns such as the South China Sea dispute and tensions in the Korean Peninsula, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said that 28 foreign ministers from the ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit have confirmed they will attend the 50th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings in Manila from August 2 to 8.

Bolivar noted that the foreign ministers are expected to exchange views on regional and international security concerns during the meetings and post ministerial conferences.

"We expect a candid and free flow of discussions during that time on these issues," Bolivar said in a press conference at Malacañang.

The DFA spokesperson, however, refused to comment on reports that the ASEAN foreign ministers will issue a watered-down statement regarding the disputed waters.

Bolivar noted that the ASEAN foreign ministers will issue a joint communique, which is a negotiated statement among the 10 member states of the regional bloc.

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He added that the circulating so-called draft of the joint communique cannot be verified to be accurate as such drafts "evolve quickly."

"We are a few days away from AMM and the related meetings so there are now more enhanced, more vigorous consultations among the ASEAN member states and then of course with the dialogue partners for the respective chairman statements so we will just have to wait," Bolivar said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have confirmed to attend the meeting in Manila. Both foreign ministers have expressed opposition to China's activities in the disputed waters.

Earlier this year, Tillerson accused China of using its economic power to evade issues such as the South China Sea dispute. Bishop, on the other hand, stressed during her visit to Manila last March that Australia does not support the militarization of any part of the South China Sea.

READ: US accuses China of 'buying its way out' of sea row | Australia reasserts stance vs South China Sea militarization

As for the framework of the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, Bolivar said that the ASEAN foreign ministers are expected to endorse the outline as approved by the senior officials last May.

"We have commitment from ASEAN and China to finalize, to approve the code of conduct within the chairmanship year of the Philippines, which is this year," he said.

RELATED: ‘No unified Asean stand vs China’s reclamation in SCS’

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