China Maritime Disputes Bedevil ASEAN
Chinese island-building efforts in the disputed South China Sea, where airstrips are being built on coral reefs, risk undermining "peace, security and stability" in the region, bedeviled the Asian leaders warned at a regional summit.
According to a Reuters report, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur was overshadowed by the long-running maritime territorial dispute, as the Philippines drew the ire of Beijing which called its objections to the work "unreasonable".
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who chaired a summit meeting of leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, faced the delicate task of ensuring the South China Sea issue does not get too heated.
Beijing’s assertion to almost the entire strategic body of water - also claimed in parts by several Asian nations - has set off alarm bells with its neighbours and beyond as China stakes its claim with growing boldness.
ASEAN's renowned "consensus" approach has been tested over the South China Sea, with several members including host Malaysia reluctant to antagonize China, but diplomatic sources said Kuala Lumpur would eventually give in to pressure from some neighbours and address the reclamation issue at the meeting.
According to Agence France Presse report, a statement to be issued at the close of the one-day summit, also notes "serious concerns" over land reclamation on reefs whose sovereignty is contested, which has triggered fears of tightening Chinese control of the seaway.
"We share the serious concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamation being undertaken in the South China Sea, which has eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability," said the statement by summit chair Malaysia, seen by AFP.