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ASEAN struggles with South China Sea code
by Staff Writers
Phnom Penh (AFP) April 2, 2012

Southeast Asian foreign ministers wrangled Monday over a proposed code of conduct aimed at easing dangerous maritime disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.

But Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting in Cambodia said they still hoped to narrow their differences and sign the code with China by the end of the year.

The Philippines is urging its ASEAN counterparts to first agree on a common position before meeting with China, but others argued Beijing should be involved from the start, diplomatic sources said.

"I think the difference of opinion lies in the fact that we are advocating that a draft of the COC (code of conduct) be prepared before we sit down with China," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in Phnom Penh.

"Others are taking the view that China should be invited to come in for the initial discussion."

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said ASEAN should hear China's views before presenting Beijing with a draft code.

He said it was important to "listen and we hear what China's views are so that we can really develop a position that is cohesive and coherent".

During Indonesia's chairmanship of the regional bloc least year, ASEAN and China agreed on a set of guidelines for the proposed code, ending a nine-year impasse.

A senior Southeast Asian diplomat told AFP that countries were also divided on whether to include a dispute settlement mechanism in the code.

ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam along with China and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, a conduit for more than one-third of the world's seaborne trade and half its traffic in oil and gas.

The Philippines and Vietnam accuse China of aggressively asserting its claims in recent years, leading to minor clashes that diplomats and military commanders fear could quickly escalate into major conflicts.

"The Philippines hopes that the code of conduct will be a real 'move forward' not merely in terms of form, but more importantly in substance," del Rosario said.

Still, he said he hoped ASEAN and China would sign the code this year during Cambodia's chairmanship of the regional bloc.

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British frigate heads to S. Atlantic amid Falklands tension
London (AFP) April 2, 2012 - Britain will send a high-tech warship to the South Atlantic this week, the Ministry of Defence announced Monday, on the 30th anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the Falkland Islands.

The HMS Dauntless, a powerful Type 45 destroyer, will leave its base in Portsmouth, southern England, on Wednesday for a six-month deployment in the South Atlantic, a ministry spokesman told AFP.

"It's going to the South Atlantic, not specifically to the Falklands," the spokesman stressed, as both Britain and Argentina held events to mark 30 years since the beginning of their brief but bloody conflict over the archipelago.

The spokesman said the warship will reach the islands, which have been controlled by Britain since 1833 but are claimed by Argentina, via western and southern Africa.

The Dauntless is armed with Sea Viper missiles, which the Royal Navy says can protect a naval task force from aerial threats up to 70 miles (113 kilometres) away.

The ministry would not say when the Dauntless, which joined the British navy in 2010, would arrive in the South Atlantic, as it said it did not give details on the position of its ships.


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Kurds halt oil exports in payment row
Baghdad (AFP) April 1, 2012
Iraq's Kurdish region halted oil exports on Sunday after Baghdad's top energy official warned it to reconsider before following through on the threat over the government's non-payment of funds. The move by Kurdistan is the latest in a long-running row between Baghdad and Kurdish authorities in Arbil, who have squabbled over payments, revenue-sharing and the central government's refusal to re ... read more

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