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ASEAN Communiqué Stalls Amid Disagreement on S. China Sea Stance

ASEAN Communiqué Stalls Amid Disagreement on S. China Sea StanceASEAN Communiqué Stalls Amid Disagreement on S. China Sea Stance

Southeast Asian foreign ministers failed to release a customary communiqué at the end of a high-level meeting on Saturday in Manila after what diplomats said was a lack of consensus about how to refer to disputes in the South China Sea.

The South China Sea has long been the most thorny issue for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with different opinions among its 10 members on how to address China's assertiveness and its building and heavy arming of its artificial islands in disputed waters, Reuters reported.

Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Robespierre Bolivar gave no reason for the delay and said the statement would instead be released at the end of a series of regional events hosted by Manila in the next few days.

"The communiqué will be issued together with all the chairman's statements by the end of all the meetings," he said.

ASEAN's problem in agreeing the wording highlight China's growing influence at a time of uncertainty whether the new US administration will prioritize relations with ASEAN, and try to check Beijing's controversial maritime activities.

Diplomats from three ASEAN countries said the delay was because Vietnam, which is among four members with competing sovereignty claims with China, wanted the text to mention the need to avoid land reclamation and militarization.

 

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