BANGKOK, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday welcomed the efforts and progress made by the bloc members and China in negotiations on the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
At the China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting here, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China and ASEAN countries have finished the first reading of the COC Single Draft Negotiating Text ahead of schedule.
"It marks new, major progress in the COC consultations and an important step toward the goal of concluding the consultations within three years' time," said the Chinese top diplomat.
In a joint communique of the ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting which was released on Wednesday, the 10 ministers "warmly welcomed the continued improving cooperation between ASEAN and China, and were encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC in the South China Sea within a mutually-agreed timeline."
They also welcomed the efforts to complete the first reading of the Single Draft Negotiating Text of the COC by this year, the joint communique read.
The foreign ministers also recognized the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity.
They emphasized the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the COC negotiations and thus welcomed practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risk of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation, the joint communique added.
The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), signed by China and ASEAN countries in 2002, outlines the most important principles in the management of disputes on the South China Sea. Consultations for the COC were launched by the two sides in 2013. Both are aimed at safeguarding peace and stability in the region.
ASEAN, established in 1967, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.