November 3, 2019 / 5:56 AM / a month ago

China says ready to work with ASEAN for South China Sea peace

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attends the ASEAN-China Summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

BANGKOK (Reuters) - China is ready to work with Southeast Asian countries for long term peace and stability in the South China Sea, Chinese premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday after meeting leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

China’s sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea are rejected by several members of ASEAN, which have competing claims in the busy waterway.

At the summit in Bangkok, Li cited progress on a long-awaited South China Sea code of conduct, due for completion within three years.

“We are willing to work with ASEAN, under the consensus that had been reached, to sustain long term peace and stability in the South China Sea, according to the timetable set for three years,” Li said in a statement.

A legally binding code has long been a goal for ASEAN members sparring over what they see as China’s disregard of sovereign rights and its obstruction of their energy exploration and fishing.

Reporting by Liz Lee; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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