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China Receives A Mild Rebuke From Southeast Asia

Asean failed to mention a recent ruling by an international arbitration panel that said China's claims over virtually the entire South China Sea was illegal

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Southeast Asian nations have delivered a watered-down rebuke to China for its territorial expansion in the South China Sea, in a diplomatic victory for China.

After deadlocked negotiations among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the grouping issued a joint statement on Monday expressing concern over China's activities, but repeating much of what it has said before.

It also failed to mention a recent ruling by an international arbitration panel that said China's claims over virtually the entire South China Sea was illegal. China's claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.

Attempts to rebuke China within ASEAN were stymied by its ally Cambodia, and to some extent Laos.

In its statement, the AESAN ministers said that they "remain seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments."

They also said, "We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea."

The statement is a victory for China, which has used every diplomatic muscle in its power to prevent criticism of its actions.

It came after a highly anticipated meeting between Southeast Asian foreign ministers and their Chinese counterpart ended amid expectations that the two sides discussed China's territorial expansion in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi did not speak to reporters after the meeting today with ministers and officials from the 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ASEAN is divided on whether to rebuke China for its territorial ambitions, which infringes on areas claimed by four AESAN member nations. Most of them want to, but Cambodia, a key Beijing ally, and Laos do not want to be critical of China.


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