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South China Sea

Stalled South China Sea code stokes fears of China power grab

Coronavirus blocks in-person talks between ASEAN and Beijing

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill in the Pacific Ocean.    © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Negotiations for a South China Sea code of conduct have stalled during the coronavirus pandemic, raising concerns among some Southeast Asian nations that China will exploit the delay to consolidate its presence in disputed waters.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc acknowledged the standstill after a virtual summit last Friday of Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders. Some observers now question whether the code can be agreed on by the 2021 target date proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

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