US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has praised China and ASEAN members for agreeing on the new guidelines on conduct in the South China Sea, during a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Bali.
Mrs Clinton was speaking before meeting her Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
But observers say significant points of difference still remain between parties in the territorial dispute. China and several other Asian countries have overlapping claims to all or parts of the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and containing shipping lanes vital to global trade.
An official in the US delegation said Mrs Clinton will also make a "very detailed statement" on the matter when she addresses the ASEAN Regional Forum tomorrow. She is expected to stress the importance of the South China Sea to American and global commerce, saying the US has a strategic stake in how issues are managed.
Australia has also added its voice to concerns around simmering tensions related to the South China Sea. As the issue continued to dominate talks at the ASEAN summit, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday said Australia too had a stake in seeing the dispute resolved.
"For all countries who are non-ASEAN members but whose vital economic interests lie also in the ability to traverse these waters peacefully in pursuit of commerce and freedom of navigation, we'll all have our views - including the Americans," he said.
Report: Rudd keen to see South China Sea row end [Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2011]
Meanwhile, South Korea's nuclear envoy says he has had "constructive" talks with his North Korean counterpart on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit.
The meeting between South Korea's Wi Sung-lac and North Korea's Ri Yong-ho was the first time the two countries had held bilateral talks on nuclear issues. It is also the first contact of any kind between the two sides since multilateral six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme collapsed two years ago.
This could pave the way for a higher-level meeting between South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and his North Korean counterpart Pak Ui-chun before leaders leave Bali over the weekend.
Tensions between North and South Korea have been high since two attacks on the South last year left 50 dead.
Report: Asean: N and S Korea envoys hold 'constructive' talks [BBC News, 22 July 2011]
Also at the summit, Cambodia's Prime Minister proposed a deal with Thailand to simultaneously withdraw troops from a newly defined demilitarized zone, in compliance with a United Nations court ruling aimed at defusing tensions in a disputed border area.
Hun Sen said Cambodia wanted to respond quickly to Monday's verdict by the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which ordered troops from both countries to pull out of the territory around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple to prevent further flare-ups.
"Troop withdrawal must be done simultaneously. The ruling requires both sides to withdraw troops, not just Cambodia," Hun Sen said at a news conference.
Hun Sen said he was looking forward to working with a new Thai government led by Prime Minister elect Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Report: Cambodian PM proposes troop pullout deal with Thailand [Reuters, 22 July 2011]