ASEAN coun­tries mute wor­ries with Bei­jing on South China Sea

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD -

MANILA | South­east Asian lead­ers will express se­ri­ous con­cern over ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes in the South China Sea when they gather in an an­nual sum­mit in Manila this week, but are ex­pected to issue only sub­dued lan­guage on a con­flict that has in­creas­ingly alarmed Asian and Western gov­ern­ments.

Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, who has warmed once-frosty re­la­tions with China, hosts his coun­ter­parts in the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions on Satur­day.

A draft of the “chair­man’s state­ment” to be is­sued at the end of the sum­mit leaked Tues­day does not men­tion an ar­bi­tra­tion de­ci­sion last year that in­val­i­dated China’s claims to the strate­gic wa­ter­way and ex­presses se­ri­ous concerns only “by some lead­ers” over the “es­ca­la­tion of ac­tiv­i­ties in the area.”

The 20-page draft de­votes fewer para­graphs and re­peats lan­guage of con­cern al­ready used in past ASEAN com­mu­niques.

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