ASEAN FMs retract sea dispute statement

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/15 1:58:01

Southeast Asian countries have retracted a statement that expressed "serious concerns" over recent events in the South China Sea, Malaysia said on Tuesday, adding that "urgent amendments" would be made.

A meeting between Chinese and Southeast Asian foreign ministers was held on Tuesday in Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on Monday that this meeting is a special arrangement on the sidelines of the China-ASEAN annual regular meeting.

"We have to retract the media statement by the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) foreign ministers ... as there are urgent amendments to be made," a Malaysian foreign ministry spokeswoman was quoted by AFP as saying on Tuesday.

She said the ASEAN Secretariat approved the release of the statement, then later informed the ministry it was being retracted.

"We expressed our serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and which may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea," the ASEAN communiqué had said, without mentioning China by name.

The retraction indicated disagreements within ASEAN and was worth further negotiations with China, Liu Feng, an expert on Chinese maritime issues, told the Global Times.

The disparities between China and ASEAN include China's opposition to a possible joint statement issued by ASEAN on the future ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the progress of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and construction activities on islands and reefs, a Beijing-based expert who requested anonymity, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

ASEAN believed in the necessity to issue the statement as the Philippines is a member, the expert said, adding that ASEAN countries expected a faster completion of the code while China insisted on the comprehensive implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea before promoting the code.

"But there is still room for discussion between China and ASEAN because the two sides have more in common," Liu said.

ASEAN officials did not release the so-called communiqué to the reporters, and the foreign ministers have not announced the document on any public platform. There is no consensus among ASEAN members on the South China Sea issue. Some Western media outlets have been collecting information that might prove ASEAN is vigorously complaining about China as a bloc. Forces outside the region are also fomenting discontent with China and trying to isolate it.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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