ASEAN countries mute worries with Beijing on South China Sea
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.