China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have finished the first reading of the Single Draft Negotiating Text of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea ahead of schedule, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday.
At the China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting, Wang noted that in the past year, China and ASEAN countries, following the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, explored rule-based governance of the South China Sea, actively advanced the consultations on a COC in the South China Sea, and finished the first reading of the COC Single Draft Negotiation Text ahead of schedule.
Through the first reading the text is streamlined so that the framework and essential elements of the text become clearer and the structure more reasonable, Wang said.
"It marks new, major progress in the COC consultations and an important step toward the goal of concluding the consultations within three years' time," said Wang.
Wang stressed that the first reading was completed early thanks to the "sincerity and resolve of all parties in the consultation."
"This cherishable achievement saves us more time for the following readings, boosts our confidence and demonstrates the conviction of regional countries to jointly set rules in the region and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea together," he said. "As the COC consultations continue, I believe we will have more progress and outcomes to share with you," he added.