ASEAN hits China's reclamations, militarization
In a surprise move, Southeast Asia's top diplomats have defied China's steadfast stance and issued a joint communique that indirectly criticizes its land reclamations and military fortifications in the disputed South China Sea.
The 10 foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also mentioned late Sunday in their 46-page statement a vague reference to an international arbitration ruling last year that invalidated China's historical claims to virtually all of the strategic waterway. As in past criticisms, they did not cite China by name.
A draft communique seen by The Associated Press days before the ministers held their annual summit in Manila on Saturday failed to mention the sensitive criticisms, which China has opposed to be discussed in multinational forums.
A Southeast Asian diplomat told the AP on Sunday that Vietnam had pushed for stronger language despite opposition from many of the ministers, whose countries rely heavily on China for trade and investment.