ASEAN navy chiefs to draw up maritime guidelines

Representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' navies held a meeting on Wednesday in the Philippine capital, Manila. They say they have agreed to set up their first joint guidelines to avoid problems at sea.

The guidelines stipulate distances that should be maintained, and communications used to avoid collisions between ships. They outline how to ask for support in case of emergency. The guidelines will be used to improve cooperation between navies.

They were proposed by the Philippines, which says its ships have frequently been obstructed by Chinese government vessels. China claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea.

ASEAN members are also working on rules for a code of conduct with China to prevent disputes.

Observers say the initiatives are a way for ASEAN members to position themselves for future negotiations with China.