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China blames non-member countries for ASEAN dispute

By Elizabeth Shim
China blames non-member countries for ASEAN dispute
ASEAN member countries and partners during a meeting at the United Nations in New York in 2010. In Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, ASEAN ended a meeting of defense ministers without a closing statement. File Photo by Spencer Platt/Pool | License Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- A meeting of defense ministers from the 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Wednesday ended without a closing statement due to disagreements over China's land reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

Member countries that include Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines could not agree on whether remarks about China's claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea should be included in the final statement, the BBC reported.

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U.S. officials who attended the meeting in Kuala Lumpur as an ASEAN partner said China had lobbied members for an omission, while criticizing "certain other countries" for meddling with regional Asia affairs.

On Wednesday, in response to the ASEAN outcome, Beijing's Defense Ministry held non-member countries responsible while not referring to the United States by name, South Korea's News 1 reported.

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"Through a joint statement, Malaysia and other countries had formed a consensus. But certain other countries, without consideration for the issues discussed during the meeting, tried to force the inclusion of statements not relevant to the dialogue," Beijing said.

China also said the countries responsible for creating the dispute were acting in opposition to the principles of the expanded meeting of ASEAN defense ministers and "undermined the position of ASEAN and its leadership capacity."

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U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who attended the meeting, is to travel on the USS Roosevelt through the South China Sea on Thursday. On Oct. 27, another U.S. Navy vessel sailed within a 12-mile radius of the China-claimed islands, escalating tensions.

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In September during his state visit to Washington, D.C., Chinese President Xi Jinping had said China maintains its sovereignty over territories in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been building airstrips over reclaimed reefs.

Xi had said the construction activity does not impact any country, and that China is not pursuing militarization of the islands and supports freedom of maritime navigation.

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