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ASEAN eye protocols to prevent sea clashes

dpa logodpa 7/09/2016

China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations are expected to sign the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea at a summit in Laos.

The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are expected to adopt a protocol aimed at preventing clashes resulting from unplanned encounters in the disputed South China Sea.

The signing on Wednesday of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea at a summit in Vientiane, Laos comes as the Philippines warned China might be preparing for fresh construction work.

The Philippine Defence Department released new surveillance photos of 10 ships spotted in the South China Sea near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which included four vessels that look like barges.

Officials said the agreement on communications protocols would be "very important" in preventing potential clashes.

They added that the code would be one way of easing tensions in the sea, which China claims almost entirely despite a July 12 ruling by an international arbitration court that it has no basis for such an assertion.

ASEAN leaders were expected to express serious worries over Chinese land reclamation in the South China Sea, according to a draft statement to be issued at the end of the summit.

"We remain strongly concerned over recent and ongoing developments and took note of the concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region," the draft statement said.

However, the leaders are unlikely to make any official mention of the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that Beijing has no legal right to claim a large part of the South China Sea.

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