The Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed along with China, Japan and South Korea to begin official consultations that will lead to a binding code of conduct among the countries involved in the maritime and territorial disagreements in the South China Sea.
"We have to have the code of conduct," Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters. "Otherwise, uncertainty will prevail."
The consultations agreed to Sunday will lead to formal talks in September, which ASEAN said in a written statement will provide a forum an "in-depth exchange of views on the full and effective implementation of the DOC (declaration of conduct) and enhance maritime cooperation."
The South China Sea has become increasingly tense as nations in the region jostle for position on various resources. The DOC would set down rules to prevent potentially volatile confrontations, Japan's Kyodo news service said.
Another simmering conflict on the ASEAN agenda was the Korean Peninsula. While the organization took no action on the decades-old standoff, it did receive a briefing from South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.
Yun said in remarks to the ministers that North Korea's current "charm offensive" needed to be taken with a grain of salt and Seoul was not going to sit down for talks that have no substance, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.
"North Korea must first demonstrate its sincerity through concrete actions by abiding its international obligations under the U.N. Security Council Resolutions and its own commitments on denuclearization," Yun said.
Yonhap said Yun's remarks seemed to cool speculation Yun and officials from Pyongyang could hold informal consultations at the ASEAN summit.