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After 17 Years, China, Southeast Asia Aim to Sign Initial Deal for Disputed Sea within Months

China and a group of Southeast Asian countries, long at odds over control of the sea between them, aim to finish phase one of a maritime code of conduct within months after 17 years of trying to resolve Asia’s widest-reaching sovereignty dispute. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have probably talked enough to eliminate any sticky points in the code – issues touching on who owns which islands, for example – to approach a first reading by their major annual meeting in November, scholars in Asia say. A code would help guide ships away from mishaps and resolve any accidents in the vast, crowded South China Sea without giving any government express priority. A June 9 collision between Philippine and Chinese vessels, backed by growing regional pressure on China, gave new impetus to signing a code............

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