Fiery Cross is controlled by China but also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has conducted extensive exercises in the area – a disputed territory where it faces rival ownership claims from Vietnam, Brunie, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Lin added that the issue should be dealt with through multilateral discussions, based on the principles of shelving differences and seeking joint development of resources.

China’s foreign ministry said senior officials from ASEAN and China agreed to the framework that establishes guidelines for a final agreement.

Before Friday’s talks, ASEAN, a regional grouping of Southeast Asian nations, had been working toward a multilateral solution – primarily through negotiating a code of conduct.

The Philippines last month hosted the 30 ASEAN summit, which was highlighted by a watered-down communique that evaded reference to China’s maritime encroachment in the South China Sea.

A joint press release by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and New Zealand counterpart Bill English called on parties to settle their territorial disputes in the South China Sea in light of a 2016 ruling by an worldwide arbitral tribunal, according to Japan’s Kyoto News.

In a separate speech on Tuesday upon his arrival in Davao City from Beijing, Duterte emphasized that it was not yet time to discuss the arbitral ruling over the South China Sea with the Chinese President. “I said it straight to his face”.

China has piled sand upon reefs to build seven islands in disputed parts of the Spratly archipelago.

China can say, ‘Look we have already reached agreements, are behaving ourselves, so no need for you Americans or others to come in and get in our business, ‘” Huang said in a telephone interview. Despite Duterte’s optimism, foreign affairs secretary Alan Cayetano says, “we don’t expect moving mountains”.

“The Philippines can also ask for damages for every day of delay that the Philippines is prevented by China from exploiting Philippine EEZ”, he added. It has not conducted any freedom-of-navigation operations, or sail-bys using warships, in the South China Sea this year, making it all the more hard for ASEAN to stand up to Beijing.

Duterte claimed that he could not go to war as it will mean a massacre of Filipinos given that China has the biggest army in the world.

Chinese and Philippine officials will hold their first round of bilateral talks on their part of the dispute in China on Friday. “I think the negotiations will still go on for years”.

The President then said he is not ready to sow a rift with China.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in late March that major construction at the three largest of China’s man-made islands in the Spratlys was almost finished, allowing Beijing to deploy fighter jets and mobile missile launchers to the area at any time.


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