China, Vietnam Meeting Cancelled Amid South China Sea Tensions

China, Vietnam Meeting Cancelled Amid South China Sea Tensions”

ASEAN foreign ministers failed to promptly issue a joint communique after their annual gathering Saturday due to a disagreement over whether to include criticism, even indirectly, of China's increasingly assertive moves in the contested territories and the way to express concern over North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile tests, two Southeast Asian diplomats told The Associated Press on yesterday.

The meeting with Ri Yong-Ho took place ahead of the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' meeting in the capital, Manila.

The Philippines, under previous president Benigno Aquino, had been one of the most vocal critics of China and filed a case before a UN-backed tribunal.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, and has heavily militarized some islands in the region and expanded other territories with major land reclamation work, turning sandbars into islands and equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems.

The problem is that it does not refer to whether the code of conduct will have legally binding force.

A Chinese foreign ministry official said they had "already met". Washington has responded favorably to the request, saying it's working closely with Seoul, to see if restrictions could lifted to bolster its ally's defensive capabilities.

A Southeast Asian diplomat said yesterday that Vietnam had pushed for stronger language despite opposition from numerous ministers, whose countries rely heavily on China for trade and investment. It showed pictures of them shaking hands.

Beijing is sensitive to even a veiled reference by ASEAN to its reclamation of seven reefs and its military installations in the South China Sea, which it claims in nearly its entirety despite the competing claims of five other countries. The exploration was suspended after diplomatic protests from China.

Wang said that China had not carried out reclamation for two years.

After the ASEAN meeting, China's foreign minister had called out "some countries" who voiced concern over island reclamation. Tillerson says he and the South Korean diplomat plan to discuss the sanctions during their meeting, along with next steps to pressure the North.

They urged South China Sea claimants "to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts, militarization of disputed features, and undertaking unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment in areas pending delimitation", the statement said.

Wang Yi said the United Nations resolution's call for a return to talks emphasized that diplomatic and peaceful means were necessary to avoid tensions and it was necessary to prevent the crisis from escalating.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meeting with North Korea's top diplomat during the gathering in Manila, urged the North to "maintain calm" despite the United Nations vote.

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