MILITARIZATION of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) should be avoided by all claimant countries and other states so as not to complicate the situation in the disputed territories, foreign ministers of the Association of the South East Asian Nations (Asean) said in its joint communiqué on Monday.
The communiqué, issued Sunday night also noted the concerns raised by some foreign ministers during the extensive discussions on land reclamations and activities in the West Philippines Sea (WPS), which eroded trust and confidence.
“We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” the ministers said in the 46-page document.
The joint communique was supposed to be released on Saturday following the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, plenary session and retreat but was stalled because of the failure of the ministers to reach a consensus.
Instead, they released a separate statement strongly urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to immediately stop intercontinental ballistic missile testing.
While Asean foreign ministers emphasized the importance of non-militarization on their communique, there was no direct mention of China and its reported fortification of features in the contested waters in the document.
According to some ministers land reclamations and activities in the area have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.
The foreign ministers also noted other regional and international issues like developments in the Korean Peninsula, countering violent extremism, radicalization and terrorism, and the situation in the Middle East.