The issue of China’s claims in the South China Sea (SCS) and the resulting interplay with ASEAN is a subject that has received only episodic attention in Washington since the 1995 Mischief Reef "flap" between the Philippines and China. That incident resulted in a U.S. policy statement asserting the "sanctity" of the sea-lanes and, subsequently, a strong unified protest by the ASEAN states. In turn Beijing and Manila agreed on a code of conduct to avoid potentially destabilizing actions.
PacNet #15 – China and the South China Sea – A Conference Summary Report
April 16, 1999