'Serious concerns' over South China Sea: ASEAN ministers in China

A satellite image of Subi Reef in the Spratlys. Manila is accusing Beijing of violating international laws by claiming areas that are 1,611km from its borders.
PHOTO: Reuters

BEIJING - Countries in Southeast Asia have "serious concerns" over recent events in the disputed South China Sea, an unusually strongly worded communique issued by their foreign ministers in China said Tuesday.

In a rare diplomatic slap in the face for Beijing - issued on its own territory - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) offered a sharp rebuke over China's actions in the waterway.

"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," its communique said without mentioning China by name.

"We stressed the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)."

The bloc's finger-wagging, after a Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' meeting in Kunming, comes as the region braces for a ruling by a UN tribunal on a claim brought by the Philippines against China.

"We articulated ASEAN's commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the UNCLOS and the UN Charter," the statement said.

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