SOUTH-EAST Asian nations issued and then swiftly retracted a tendentious statement yesterday on tensions in the South China Sea.
The statement purporting to be from the 10-nation Asean regional bloc was issued Tuesday night after a China-Asean meeting in the southern Chinese city of Yuxi called in part to discuss tensions in the crucial waterway.
The group “cannot ignore what is happening in the South China Sea as it is an important issue in the relations and co-operation between Asean and China,” the statement said.
“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,” it said.
The statement was issued by Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry to an online chat group, which also sent out the retraction.
Asked whether China had objected to the statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang replied that Beijing had been assured that it was not an official Asean document and had been retracted.
“If Asean wants to officially issue something that represents its stance, it should be agreed upon by all Asean members,” said Mr Lu.
While the original statement made no direct accusations against China, it referred to sensitivity over land reclamation in a nod to China’s creation of man-made islands and the building of airstrips and other infrastructure.
While the incident wasn’t widely reported in China’s media, the official Global Times issued an editorial accusing foreign media coverage of manufacturing the controversy.