New rules and a hotline designed to tackle accidental encounters and emergencies in the South China Sea have been discussed by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The rules and hotline, together with other guidelines, were part of a package of measures on the agenda at the ninth Senior Officials' Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
The measures are aimed at "effectively controlling the maritime situation and preventing unexpected incidents from happening", said a statement released after the meeting in Tianjin on Wednesday.
China's Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and senior diplomats from the 10 ASEAN member states attended.
They discussed ways to fully and effectively implement the declaration, pragmatic maritime co-operation and advancing consultations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea. Liu said China and ASEAN countries agreed to continue working to set up a foreign ministers' hotline to deal with emergencies at sea.
Several documents were approved at the seven-hour meeting that ended at 5 pm. These included the working plan on implementing the declaration for this year and next year, Liu said.
Noppadon Theppitak, deputy permanent secretary at Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, "Through our common determination and good faith, we can and must turn obstacles into opportunities by recommitting to the full and effective implementation of the declaration in tandem with the code of conduct consultation."
Xu Liping, a senior researcher in Southeast Asian affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "The rules and the hotline have been proposed at the right time, as mutual trust is facing challenges."
The hotline and the code of conduct show outsiders that China and ASEAN countries are capable of maintaining peace and prosperity in the South China Sea area, Xu said.
Chen Qinghong, a South-east Asian studies researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the rules and hotline are practical measures to resolve disputes, which accords with the dual-track approach pledged by Foreign Minister Wang Yi and agreed to by China and most ASEAN members in November.