China blames 'certain country' for delay in South China Sea code talks
In this Sept. 15, 2020 photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin, ASEAN Foreign Ministers, and Chinese FM exchange views on COVID-19 and South China Sea at the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting.
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China blames 'certain country' for delay in South China Sea code talks
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - September 17, 2020 - 12:49pm

MANILA, Philippines — While China and Southeast Asian countries have resumed consultation on a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, Beijing accused a non-regional country of interfering on the negotiations.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic, which first emerged in Wuhan City late last year, also delayed the process of the COC consultations.

"Apart from the difficulties caused by the pandemic, certain country outside the region is bent on interfering in the disputes of the South China Sea and the COC consultations to serve its own geopolitical agenda," the Chinese Embassy said in a statement Thursday.

The spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy did not mention which country, but the United States has been challenging Beijing's expansive claims in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

In July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Washington would consider Beijing's claims to offshore resources in the disputed sea as completely unlawful.

Last month, the US blacklisted 24 Chinese state-owned firms involved in building artificial islands in the South China Sea. Among the sanctioned firms are subsidiaries of construction giant China Communications Construction Co., which is also involved in the Sangley airport project in Cavite.

For Beijing, resisting this interference would be "crucial for pushing forward the future consultations of COC."

The Philippines acts as coordinator of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations and co-chair of the COC consultations, which resumed virtually in September 3.

"China appreciates the Philippines’ commitment to push forward negotiations towards an effective and substantive COC in the South China Sea," the embassy said.

Chinese defense chief Wei Fenghe was in Manila last week as part of his Southeast Asian tour. He met with President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañang.

Duterte and Wei agreed that COC would be important in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

“We must always be guided by our commitments in international law. Any and all disputes must be resolved peacefully,” Duterte said in a statement.

The Duterte administration has set aside the Philippines' arbitral victory, which invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. Beijing continues to ignore this landmark ruling, insisting that they have indisputable sovereignty over the region.

CHINA CHINESE EMBASSY SOUTH CHINA SEA UNITED STATES WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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