Nod for Asean statement was unanimous, says KL

PUTRAJAYA • Malaysia's Foreign Ministry said yesterday that the 10 Asean foreign ministers had "unanimously agreed" to issue a joint media statement at the end of the Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Tuesday in Kunming.

Malaysia's Foreign Ministry secretary-general Othman Hashim said in a statement that the Asean foreign ministers began departing from Kunming, China, at the meeting's conclusion.

"With the consensus in place, no further discussions were held regarding the issuance of the Asean media statement," he said. "Subsequent developments pertaining to the media statement took place after the departure of the Asean foreign ministers," said Tan Sri Othman.

Mr Othman's statement was issued amid questions raised in some Asean capitals on whether a strongly worded joint ministerial statement issued after the meeting was agreed upon by all the ministers.

The statement expressed Asean concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea involving China's activities there.

The statement, issued by Malaysia, was retracted by it a few hours later. The Straits Times understands that it was blocked after China lobbied Laos and Cambodia - both of which rely on the Asian giant for aid and investments - to raise last- minute objections.

Both Indonesia and the Philippines on Thursday backed the content of an aborted ministerial statement.

The kerfuffle over the Kunming meeting's outcome comes amid rising tension over China's building of artificial islands and military facilities on reefs and shoals in the South China Sea despite complaints from other claimants such as Vietnam and the Philippines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2016, with the headline 'Nod for Asean statement was unanimous, says KL'. Print Edition | Subscribe