Asean foreign ministers expressed serious concerns to China over South China Sea developments: Vivian

Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Asean ministers had expressed serious concerns to China over recent South China Sea developments on June 14, 2016. PHOTO: MFA

SINGAPORE - Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Asean ministers had expressed serious concerns to China over recent South China Sea developments at the Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting held in the Chinese city of Kunming on Tuesday (June 14).

The meeting between the Asean foreign ministers and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Kunming, in south-western Yunnan province, was co-chaired by Dr Balakrishnan, the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a press statement. Singapore is the current Asean-China dialogue relations co-ordinator.

According to the MFA, the foreign ministers discussed recent developments in the South China Sea and highlighted the need to "intensify efforts to achieve further progress in the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and substantive development of the Code of Conduct".

The MFA said Dr Balakrishnan "noted the serious concerns expressed by the Asean Foreign Ministers over the developments on the ground" as he called on Asean and China to "continue working together to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea".

"Minister Balakrishnan also reiterated Singapore's long-standing position on the issue and underscored the importance of the peaceful resolution of disputes with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, as well as the right of freedom of navigation and over-flight under international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," the statement added.

Tuesday's meeting comes as fears of conflict rise over China's construction of military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, and amid freedom-of-navigation and overflight missions by the United States.

Tensions have also been heightened by an impending United Nations tribunal ruling over an arbitration case on China's South China Sea claims, which the Philippines brought to the court in 2013.

A decision is set to be announced in weeks, with many expecting the ruling to go against China, which claims almost all of the sea.

China has slammed the arbitration and refused to take part in proceedings, insisting instead on direct negotiations between claimant states. The other claimants to the disputed waters are Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.

Aside from the South China Sea issue, the two sides also reviewed the progress of Asean-China relations and discussed the future direction and priority areas of cooperation, the MFA said.

In addition, the foreign ministers also discussed the preparations for the Asean-China Commemorative Summit that will take place in September 2016 in Laos that will celebrate 25 years of dialogue relations, it added.

"Minister Balakrishnan reaffirmed Singapore's commitment to work closely with Asean member states and China to advance the mutually beneficial relationship," the MFA said.

Dr Balakrishnan returns to Singapore on Tuesday.

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