State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirmed on Wednesday that China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have finished the first reading of a draft text of a key document regarding the South China Sea ahead of time.
Wang was referring to the most recent progress on the single draft negotiating text for an anticipated pact-the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
Consultations over the pact were launched by China and ASEAN in 2013, and it aims to further boost the South China Sea region's stability and peace.
Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Wang said that in the past year, China and ASEAN members have been exploring ways to bolster rule-based governance of the South China Sea, and they advanced the consultations on the code of conduct. Wang spoke after attending the annual China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting on Wednesday in the Thai capital.
"We warmly welcomed the continued improving cooperation between ASEAN and China," said a joint communique issued after the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting, which took place ahead of the 10 member countries' gathering with China on Wednesday.
The ASEAN countries "were encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations toward the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea within a mutually agreed timeline", the statement said.
Wang explained to reporters that with the first reading, the text is streamlined so that the framework and essential elements of the text become clearer and the structure more reasonable.
The reading marks new, major progress in the consultations on the code and an important step toward the goal of concluding the consultations within three years, he added.
Wang attributed the first reading's early completion to "the sincerity and determination of all parties in the consultation". He said the achievement deserves to be cherished, and it saves more time for the following readings.
Before Wang's meeting with the ASEAN ministers, they all attended a ceremony marking the start of the China-ASEAN Young Leaders' Scholarship.
At the ceremony, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Lopez Locsin said they appreciated China's offering scholarships to students from ASEAN countries and that reinforced exchanges help bolster mutual understanding and trust.
In a one-on-one meeting with Wang on Wednesday, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said his country is glad to see remarkable progress achieved for all-out cooperation between China and ASEAN, and Singapore is ready to further play a constructive role in China-ASEAN ties.