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ASEAN Envoys Gather in Brunei for Security Forum

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging nations to make progress on a code of conduct covering disputes over the South China Sea.

He met Monday in Brunei with foreign ministers of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The group, as well as envoys from elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, are gathered for a series of regional security meetings that will also focus on restarting nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea.

Kerry said the United States has a strong interest in maintaining peace, security and free navigation in the South China Sea, where several nations have rival territorial claims.

"As we have said many times before, while we do not take a position on a competing territorial claim over land features, we have a strong interest in the manner in which the disputes of the South China Sea are addressed and in the conduct of the parties. We very much hope to see progress soon on a substantive code of conduct in order to help ensure stability in this vital region.''

On Sunday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario renewed criticism of China for what he called a "massive" military buildup aimed at seizing control of energy and fishing rights in large parts of the South China Sea.

"They have constantly ships there that vary in number, and we are prevented in our own EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) from fishing, from sourcing our natural resources and from enforcing our laws."

Kerry is due to hold sideline talks with his counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea.

He will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov amid ongoing discussions about the situation in Syria, and Moscow's decision not to return Edward Snowden, who leaked security secrets, back to the U.S. to face espionage charges.

Envoys from the United States, North Korea and four other nations involved in the now-stalled North Korean denuclearization talks are due in the Brunei capital.

North Korea has in recent weeks proposed restarting the stalled talks, which until 2008 provided the cash-strapped country with crucial energy and food aid in exchange for shuttering its nuclear program.

Pyongyang quit the talks that year and triggered international condemnation with a nuclear test in 2009 and a second test earlier this year.

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