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Philippines FM says Beijing ‘wanted to restrict’ foreign forces in S. China Sea

Philippines FM says Beijing ‘wanted to restrict’ foreign forces in S. China Sea

The Philippines' foreign secretary said on Wednesday that China has sought to restrict the presence of foreign military powers in the South China Sea and foreign involvement in oil and gas projects there, under a pact Beijing is negotiating with Southeast Asian nations.

However, Teodoro Locsin Jr. told the ABS-CBN news channel that China has eased up on those demands, removing potential obstacles to the conclusion of the so-called “code of conduct” that it’s negotiating with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

China and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc have been negotiating the non-aggression pact in an effort to deter any aggressive acts that could spark a major armed confrontation in the disputed territories, which are along some of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

ASEAN and China have agreed to keep the negotiations confidential, but China’s insistence that the proposed code should restrict foreign military presence and exercises in the disputed region has leaked out. Two Southeast Asian diplomats have confirmed those demands, AP reports.