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Myanmar Reacts to Leaked ASEAN Document

FILE - Chinese ships chase Vietnamese vessels, not shown, after they came within 10 nautical miles of a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, July 15, 2014.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has given a reserved reaction to the leak of an ASEAN document that notes progress on a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.

Myanmar's Director of ASEAN Affairs, Aung Lin, tells VOA's Burmese service that each member of the bloc has an obligation to keep the materials confidential.

“We distributed the draft in advance amongst the member-states to get their opinion," he said. "Every member of the association has to abide its duty to keep such draft secret until the end of the summit. It is an international protocol. However, it may be altered after discussion at the summit or on the volition of [Myanmar].”

The document, a draft of the chairman's statement for next week's summit, was given to VOA Wednesday by a senior government source from an ASEAN country, who did not want to be named.

The statement, a draft of the communique that would typically be released at the end of an ASEAN summit, urges the group's members to peacefully resolve their maritime disputes with China.

The summit is to be held next week in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw.

But the leaked statement is written in the past tense, as if the summit has already taken place. It says, “We expressed our concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea, which have increased tensions in the area. We reaffirmed the importance of regional cooperation in maintaining peace and stability, promoting maritime security and safety, and the freedom of navigation, including in and over-flight above the South China Sea."

It goes on to say, “We reaffirmed the collective commitments of ASEAN Members States and China to peace, stability and maritime security and for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety. We noted progress on negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and underscored the importance of maintaining the momentum of negotiations and working expeditiously towards the early conclusion of the COC."

China and ASEAN have been working on a binding Code of Conduct for more than a decade, but with little progress so far. They reached a non-binding declaration of conduct more than a decade ago.

China has said it will only negotiate territorial disputes in one-on-one negotiations and has rejected any multilateral venue for dealing with the issues.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.