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The tribunal ruled that the Spratlys the main territory under dispute in the sea were not islands, rather reefs, and "cannot generate maritime zones, " or extend China's territorial claims as maintained by Beijing.

Southeast Asian countries and China adopted on Sunday the framework of a code of conduct in the South China Sea, setting the stage for long-sought negotiations to start on ways to ease tensions in regional waters.

China's territorial disputes in the strategic and potentially oil- and gas-rich waterway with Taiwan and ASEAN member states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam intensified after Beijing built islands in the disputed waters in recent years and reportedly started to install a missile defense system on them, alarming rival claimant states as well as the USA and other Western governments.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the move created a solid foundation for negotiations that could start this year if "the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable and on the premise that there is no major interference from outside parties".

The statement comes in response to the call of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan Foreign Minister Taro Kono to halt land reclamations and military actions in the South China Sea.

"We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states", according to the short section on the South China Sea included in a 46-page communique.

Within ASEAN, however, there is a view sympathetic to China, which has ignored the ruling.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (right) leads the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting held in Manila on August 5, 2017. One important experience in achieving this is that the one-China policy and the three China-U.S. joint communiques have been observed, Wang said.

She also said the onus was on all countries to maintain regional peace and stability and respect worldwide law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Diplomats say Asean's requirement of consensus in decision-making allows China to pressure some members to disagree with proposals it dislikes.

"Vietnam is adamant, and China is effectively using Cambodia to champion its interests".

Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their counterparts from other Asian and Pacific nations will meet in the Philippines from Sunday to Tuesday to tackle regional issues. "But the Philippines is trying very hard to broker compromise language".

The Philippines scored a major legal victory a year ago, when an global tribunal in the Hague threw out most of China's territorial claims, but since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte, Manila has become less confrontational with Beijing.