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Asia-Pacific navies sign communication agreement in effort to avoid conflicts at sea

Naval officials from the U.S. and nearly two dozen Asia-Pacific nations have adopted an agreement aimed at heading off accidents and miscommunication at sea.

The Code For Unplanned Encounters at Sea was approved unanimously Tuesday at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium held in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao.

The agreement outlines how warships should communicate and maneuver when they come into contact in heavily trafficked sea lanes surrounding China, Japan and Southeast Asia. Tensions have been rising in the region over competing territorial claims, especially over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Japan but claimed by China.

U.S. Navy officials say that although Tuesday's agreement is not legally binding, it indicates China's willingness to engage with its neighbors.