Representatives for China and all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to the framework in Guiyang in Guizhou province after two days of talks that wrapped up on Thursday, said Liu Zhenmin, deputy foreign minister and head of China’s delegation.

“The draft framework contains only the elements and is not the final rules, but the conclusion of the framework is a milestone in the process and is significant. It will provide a good foundation for the next round of consultations,” he said at a joint press conference.

Liu declined to give details about the framework and said it would remain confidential. “The draft framework will be an internal document and nobody should publish it,” Liu said. “One reason is we will continue our consultation, and the other reason is we don’t want to see any interference with our future consultations.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about US$5 trillion in goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.