Asia

Philippines: framework of South China Sea pact possible soon

In this photo provided by Presidential Communications Operations Office ASEAN, Foreign ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) link arms during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Boracay, Aklan province, central Philippines, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. From left, Laos' Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith, Malaysia's Foreign Minister AnifH Aman, Myanmar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin, Thailand's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, AMM Retreat Chair and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Brunei Darussalam's Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Pehin Dato' Lim Jock Seng, Cambodia's Senior Minister and Minister for MFAIC Prak Sokhonn, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, and ASEAN Secretary-General, ASEAN Secretariat Le Luong Minh. (Presidential Communications Operations Office ASEAN via AP)

In this photo provided by Presidential Communications Operations Office ASEAN, Foreign ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) link arms during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Boracay, Aklan province, central Philippines, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. From left, Laos' Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith, Malaysia's Foreign Minister AnifH Aman, Myanmar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin, Thailand's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, AMM Retreat Chair and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Brunei Darussalam's Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Pehin Dato' Lim Jock Seng, Cambodia's Senior Minister and Minister for MFAIC Prak Sokhonn, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, and ASEAN Secretary-General, ASEAN Secretariat Le Luong Minh. (Presidential Communications Operations Office ASEAN via AP)  (The Associated Press)

The Philippines' top diplomat says it remains to be seen whether China will cooperate fully in ongoing efforts to craft a legally binding pact designed to prevent aggressive behavior in the disputed South China Sea.

Despite the likelihood of tough negotiations ahead, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. expressed confidence Tuesday the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China can at least complete a framework for such a pact, called a code of conduct, as early as June.

Efforts to forge such a regional nonaggression pact have dragged on for years without any concrete sign of when it might be completed.

Asian and Western governments have called for the rapid conclusion of such an accord as territorial disputes in the South China Sea have escalated in recent years.