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DFA: ASEAN ministers agreed on legally binding sea code

Foreign Ministers, from left, South Korea's Kang Kyung-wha, Japan's Taro Kono, Philippines' Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, China's Wang Yi and Singapore's Vivian Balakrishnan walk after a family photo before the 18th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting, part of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Manila, Philippines, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. Mohd Rasfan/Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — The foreign ministers of the 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to push for a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The statement comes in response to the call of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono to halt land reclamations and military actions in the South China Sea.

The top diplomats of the US, Australia and Japan also called on their Southeast Asian counterparts to negotiate a legally binding COC in the disputed waters.

READ: US, Australia, Japan want coercive acts at sea to be stopped

"I believe the secretary general, in an interview a couple of days ago, mentioned that there was, in fact, an agreement among the ASEAN foreign ministers that the preference is for a legally binding code of conduct," DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said in a media briefing.

He was referring to Lê Lương Minh, secretary-general of the ASEAN and former deputy foreign minister of Vietnam.

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Bolivar also stressed the position of the Philippines that it prefers a legally binding code of conduct, on the condition that it has to be effective.

"Meaning adhered to and observed by all parties," he said.

The three countries also urged ASEAN to comply with an arbitration ruling that invalidated China's claim over the so-called nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.

On the other hand, Beijing said that the negotiations on the code of conduct among ASEAN heads of state and China may start if "outside parties" will not interfere.

"If there is no major disruption from outside parties, with that as the precondition, then we will consider during the November leaders' meeting, we will jointly announce the official start of the code of conduct consultation," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

RELATED: Analyst: China conditions for sea code talks vague, unfair

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