KUALA LUMPUR: Land reclamations in the West Philippine (South China) Sea have “increased tensions” in the region, Southeast Asian foreign ministers said on Thursday at the close of talks dominated by Beijing’s island-building.
The declaration, contained in a final communique, followed a warning by US Secretary of State John Kerry that Washington would not tolerate any restrictions on freedom of navigation in the strategically important waters.
The Southeast Asian ministers’ joint final statement noted “the serious concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations in the South China Sea.”
It said the land works “have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea,” without specifically singling out Beijing.
The communique was hashed out after two days of wrangling over how hard to pressure China on its controversial drive to expand tiny reefs and build military posts in the disputed waters.
The issue took center stage at the series of diplomatic meetings this week in Kuala Lumpur, hosted by the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
They also included envoys from two dozen other countries such as China and the United States.