The Association of Southeast Asian Nations-China Foreign Ministers is scheduled to adopt the framework for the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea at their meeting on Sunday (August 6), the Department of Foreign Affairs has disclosed.
In a draft of a joint statement to be issued after an Asean foreign ministers meeting Saturday in Manila, the 10 ministers will express "grave concern" about North Korea's test ICBM launches on July 4 and last Friday.
According to DFA Spokesperson Rob Bolivar, the draft framework will only be approved this month became the meeting of the ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers is traditionally held in August.
"For this particular year, in fact since late last year, we have a commitment from Asean and China to complete this framework and this is already a major step toward realising the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea", he said.
"So after it is endorsed, after the approval process has been done, dealt with, we expect that the talks on the actual Code of Conduct will begin in earnest", he added. "But I think that's an expected outcome", Bolivar said.
Mr Bolivar said the spread of Islamist extremism in South-east Asia would also be high on the agenda at this week's Asean meetings, especially as Philippine troops remain locked in battle with militants in southern Marawi city.
China said that disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved by claiming parties and should not allow outsiders to resolve the dispute.
Construction and island building activities may not be specifically mentioned, but the ministers are expected to again reaffirm "the importance of enhancing mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, pursuing mutually agreed practical maritime areas of cooperation, and avoiding unilateral actions in disputed features that may further complicate the situation in keeping with the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to the threat or use of force".
Efforts to finalise the pact have dragged on for years.
Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including a cluster of islands, reefs and atolls further south called the Spratlys.
ASEAN is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.