Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are concerned over China’s land reclamation projects in the South China Sea and have pledged to step up efforts to deal with what they see as a threat from China. Their statement came on Wednesday after the topic was brought up at a ministers’ retreat in Malaysia. “The retreat shared the concern raised by some foreign ministers on land reclamation in the South China Sea,” Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said at a press conference following the two-day meeting, according to Channel News Asia. Anifah’s statement did not specify which countries raised the concerns.
The Philippines, however, issued its own statement at the end of the retreat. “The massive reclamation issue presents a strategic policy dilemma for ASEAN,” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement issued at the end of the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting, according to Kyodo News. “Our inaction on this would undermine the principle of centrality, since we are unable to address in a unified and collective way such a critical issue in our own backyard.”
“The ministers instructed senior officials to intensify efforts toward achieving the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and work vigorously toward the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea,” Anifah said during the press conference.