Kuala Lumpur (dpa) – South East Asian countries Tuesday called for
restraint over tensions in the South China Sea, where Beijing is
building up installations on disputed maritime territory.
“It is imperative that this matter is handled constructively,” said
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman at the end of the day-long
meeting of his counterparts from the Association of the South East
Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario condemned the Chinese
“massive reclamation” projects over the past year as “aggressive.”
According to Beijing’s announcements, “these will be used for
purposes that would further heighten tensions and hostilities in the
region,” he said in a statement.
The Philippines fully supports the United States in calling for a
halt to the reclamation and construction, he said.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other claimants to territories
in the South China Sea are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
China said it would not stop its construction in the disputed areas.
Freezing the projects was “unrealistic and will not work in
practice,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters during a
stopover in Singapore, on his way to ASEAN meetings Wednesday and
The ASEAN ministers also discussed the recent boat people crisis in
the South East Asian seas, where thousands of Bangladeshi and Myanmar
Rohingya migrants have been stranded in rickety boats.
Anifah said the ministers emphasized the importance of identifying
“the root causes and other contributory factors” of the problem.
Many Rohingya say they are driven to migrate with the help of people
smugglers by the conditions in Myanmar, where they are considered
immigrant Bengalis and excluded from citizenship.
Delgates also underscored the urgency of timely preparation as the
regional bloc moves to become a single market at the end of the year.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.