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English-fluent new Foreign Minister Kono makes worldwide debut at ASEAN gathering

13 August 2017

"Japan, Australia, and the USA are our friends".

However both the United States and China are known to be actively preparing military options as communist North Korea threatens to abandon its hermit isolation and emerge as an unpredictable and uninvited member of the 9-member "Nuclear Club" of nations with arsenals of nuclear weapons.

In a press briefing after hosting the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, Cayetano said he initially objected to including the phrases "non-militarization" and "land reclamation" from the meeting's statement because it no longer reflected current developments in the dispute in the South China Sea.

During their trilateral talks earlier Monday, Kono, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha underscored that China, Russia and the ASEAN countries have important roles in pressuring North Korea.

The foreign ministers agreed to start operating a bilateral aerial and maritime communication mechanism as soon as possible in order to prevent any unintended clashes between the two countries in the East China Sea.

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MANILA For 15 years, China dictated the pace of negotiations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on a code of conduct for handling disputes in the South China Sea.

Some Asean ministers had not wanted land reclamation in the disputed islands to be mentioned in the communique.

Kono, a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, spoke English in all of the multilateral gatherings he attended, a government official said, a rare choice for Japanese foreign ministers.

"However, there is sentiment across ASEAN that for this engagement to be truly productive and beneficial not just to ASEAN but to our region and the world, we need to ensure that there is a mutual openness and communication amongst us", Cayetano said.

The 10-member bloc and China approved the framework and will start formally negotiating the COC, even as Beijing insisted "no major disruption from other countries".

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The broad framework, which leaves wide scope for disagreement, has critics raising doubts about how effective the COC will be.

An ASEAN declaration in 1992 called for a code of conduct for disputes involving the South China Sea, as did the 2002 joint declaration with China.

China's territorial disputes in the strategic and potentially oil- and gas-rich waterway with five other governments intensified after it built islands in disputed waters and reportedly started to install a missile defense system on them, alarming rival claimant states, the USA and other Western governments.

In its current form, the framework primarily offers guidance for avoiding tense incidents between the aircraft and naval vessels of various nations in the South China Sea-a far more limited code than what the U.S., Australia, and Japan have in mind.

Cayetano said at a news conference on Tuesday.

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English-fluent new Foreign Minister Kono makes worldwide debut at ASEAN gathering