Asean, China to Set up Hotline

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MANILA (Reuters) – Southeast Asian countries and China will establish hotlines and adopt communications protocols to avoid potential naval clashes in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, a Philippines foreign ministry official said on Friday.
The protocols will be signed in Laos this week when the heads of the 10-member Asean nations meet with leaders from other regional powers – China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, Russia and the United States – for a three day summit.
The mechanism, called the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), would be new for both Asean and China, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Helen de la Vega told a news conference.
“It’s one way of de-escalating tensions in the South China Sea,” she said, adding that hotlines between China and the Asean governments would be established.
“This is very important because any accident that can lead to a major confrontation will be avoided if our navies and coast guards are communicating with each other,” a senior Philippines navy commander said.
He said there had been instances in the past when Chinese vessels had not responded to radio and signal communications when they had been encountered by a Philippine Navy ship.

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