US' John Kerry says he will discuss South China Sea tensions with China during Asean summit

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) and US Secretary of State John Kerry at a bilateral meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 5.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) and US Secretary of State John Kerry at a bilateral meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 5. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - United States Secretary of State John Kerry said he would discuss Washington's call for a halt to activities that are raising tensions in the disputed South China Sea with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday.

Mr Kerry made the comment to reporters before he and Mr Wang met in Kuala Lumpur on the sidelines of meetings of the 10-member Asean.

Their talks come after Asean states on Tuesday called for restraint in the South China Sea amid concerns over Beijing's rapid creation of seven artificial islands in the strategic waterway. Several Asean members have competing claims with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Mr Kerry said the two sides would also discuss Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the United States in September.

One of the Chinese journalists in the room said Mr Wang noted in Chinese that what Mr Kerry said was correct.

Mr Wang on Monday described calls for a freeze in activity in the South China Sea as "unrealistic".

China had also said it didn't want the dispute raised at this week's Asean meetings, but some South-east Asian ministers including from host Malaysia rebuffed that call, saying on Tuesday that the issue was too important to ignore.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said Asean member nations agreed that "exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate tension must be enhanced" in the South China Sea.

Mr Kerry and Mr Wang are expected to hold separate meetings with the Asean grouping on Wednesday.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion in shipborne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.

China has shown no sign of halting its construction of artificial islands in disputed areas.

It has also accused the United States of militarising the South China Sea by staging patrols and joint military drills.