“The South China Sea issue is already gone,” Liu said.
He believes that with the Philippines and Vietnam seeking agreement, no other country will raise the issue.
The agreement, called a code of conduct, had been stopped for five years largely because China didn’t like it.
Then China’s occupation of a shoal in 2012 caused the Philippines to bring the territorial dispute to a world arbitration court.
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The Chinese government also put a condition that gives it a right to leave the talks, he noted.
China may be urging ASEAN not to let the United States or any powerful country get involved in the dispute while the talks continue, Thayer said.
But observers say ASEAN and China must recognize the deep sea dispute during the meetings in Manila.
Oh Ei Sun teaches international studies at Singapore Nanyang University.
He expects the dispute to be noted at the ASEAN talks, but with very general language urging all sides to act responsibly.