MANILA -- The Philippines plans to put its territorial conflict with China on the agenda at an upcoming meeting of Southeast Asian nations, aiming to gain international support for measures to put the brakes on Beijing's ambitions.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum opens Aug. 10 in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. In addition to the Asean members, participants will include Russia, North Korea, Japan, China and the U.S.
Manila will urge China and other countries involved in the conflict to avoid actions that would heighten tensions in the region, according to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs. It will also seek support for hastening the drafting of a code of conduct aimed at resolving the dispute based on international law.
Asean and China agreed last year to negotiate a code of conduct, but no formal discussions have taken place.
China by mid-July halted oil drilling near the Paracel Islands, which are located off the coast of Vietnam and claimed by Beijing and Hanoi. China has not made any provocative moves lately, which some contend is an attempt to avoid criticism at the forum. It remains in effective control of waters claimed by the Philippines.
Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario has met with counterparts in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, likely to drum up support for the proposal regarding the South China Sea conflicts. Manila has stepped up efforts to bring Europe and Japan on board as well.
President Benigno Aquino met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June, and they agreed to cooperate further on maritime security. Aquino brought photos showing the state of the disputed region and argued that China is reclaiming land and building bases there to tighten its grip.
The Philippines has asked the foreign ministers of countries involved in the conflict to discuss the matter on the sidelines of the forum, but it is unclear whether China will respond. Cambodia and other China supporters are expected to oppose such a meeting.