China's Liaoning aircraft carrier seen conducting a previous drill in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters

The Associated Press reports Wednesday that foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will ask senior diplomats to initiate talks with China on South China Sea conduct “as soon as possible.”

Territory disputes in the South China Sea will likely be high on the agenda as ASEAN foreign ministers are set to convene meetings with Western counterparts in Manila starting Saturday.

A draft communique on efforts to initation talks seen by the AP notably omitted mention of China’s island building activity or an arbitration ruling from last year that invalidated Beijing’s historic basis for claims of nearly the entire South China Sea.

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