ASEAN members concerned over Chinese militarization in South China Sea

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Feb. 21, 2017 at 9:43 AM
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Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is calling for dialogue with China as worries escalate over the militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea.

ASEAN foreign ministers representing 10 member states, including claimants to the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands, met during a retreat in the resort town of Boracay in the Philippines, the Philippine Star reported Tuesday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said other ministers at the meeting were concerned about Chinese militarization in the South China Sea.

"On the South China Sea, a number of ministers expressed concern over recent developments and escalation of activity in the area which may further raise tensions and erode trust and confidence in the region," Yasay said.

Yasay called for a peaceful resolution in abidance with international law.

Tensions have not eased in the South China Sea as Beijing continues to defend its activities in the Spratlys, and satellite images indicate military build-up continues in the Paracel Islands, also claimed by Vietnam.

The United States Navy recently deployed the USS Carl Vinson to conduct training missions in the South China Sea.

The U.S. aircraft carrier was last deployed to the Western-Pacific in 2015, but the Navy has conducted other freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, Pasay said the ministers also sought the "full implementation" of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, also known as DOC.

The Philippines has previously received the support of the United Nations' Permanent Court of Arbitration in the islands dispute, but Beijing has dismissed U.N. opinion and has urged neighboring countries to pursue bilateral negotiations.

Both sides appear to be taking steps to ease tensions, and are discussing a possible new direct communication line between their two coast guards, according to Rappler.

Philippine Commander Armand Balilo said the two countries would discuss joint search-and-rescue activities, marine pollution prevention and counter-narcotics operations.

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