KUALA LUMPUR: China came under mounting pressure on Wednesday over its land reclamation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) with both the United States and Japan criticizing it for militarizing the disputed waters.
US Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue during a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a regional diplomatic gathering in Malaysia that has been dominated by tensions over the Chinese moves.
“Secretary Kerry reiterated his concern about rising tensions over disputed claims in the South China Sea and China’s large-scale reclamation, construction and militarization of features there,” a senior US State Department official told reporters.
“He encouraged China, along with the other claimants, to halt problematic actions in order to create space for diplomacy.”
The Asian giant has sparked alarm by expanding tiny reefs in the flashpoint sea and constructing military posts on some of them to try to shore up its territorial claims.
The United States and Southeast Asian nations have called for a halt to such activities but China has refused.
Southeast Asian foreign ministers warned on Tuesday after they met in Kuala Lumpur that China’s moves were raising regional tensions, with the Philippines slamming Beijing’s “unilateral and aggressive activities.”
State Minister Minoru Kiuchi, Japan’s envoy to the talks, told delegates to the forum on Wednesday that he had “deep concern over… large-scale land reclamation, the construction of outposts and their use for military purposes,” according to a Japanese government statement.
Tokyo is locked in a confrontation of its own with Beijing over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The annual gathering is hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and includes countries from across Asia, the United States, Russia and elsewhere. It continues until Thursday.
Kerry, in a meeting on Wednesday with Asean foreign ministers, said Washington shared their desire “to preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
He stressed the need to maintain the security of sea lanes and fishing grounds and to settle disputes peacefully.
Beijing has insisted that it will not discuss the South China Sea during formal meetings at the forum, saying disagreements must be handled on a bilateral basis between rival claimants.
Diplomats and analysts say this stance is aimed at preventing Asean from presenting a more united front.
PH calls for extended cooperation
THE Philippines has called upon Asean member-states to extend support and cooperation in maintaining and enhancing the region’s centrality in managing its affairs and in building a security architecture in the region.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, in his speech during the 48th Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, noted that cooperation must be directed in addressing various issues faced by the region such as natural disasters, transnational crimes and non-traditional security threats.
“Our external partners should extend their appropriate support and cooperation to maintain a peaceful, stable and prosperous region. Specifically, regional cooperation must focus increasingly on addressing natural disasters, non-traditional security threats, transnational crimes and other emerging issues,” del Rosario said.