ASEAN skirts new consensus

Updated: 2016-07-25 08:16

By Zhang Yunbi(China Daily)

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Meeting in Laos called frustrating for countries trying to contain China

The annual gathering of top diplomats from Southeast Asian countries on Sunday did not reach any new consensus on the South China Sea issue, a frustration for countries seeking to contain China.

A statement issued after the 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Laos' capital Vientiane said the ministers had a "candid and constructive exchange of views on regional and international issues ... as well as developments in the Middle East, Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea".

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said last week that if he met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines in Laos, he would bring up the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, however, that Japan is "not even entitled to make judgmental comments on China".

"Japan is not directly concerned with the South China Sea issue, not to mention its inglorious past," Lu said, referring to Japan's illegal seizure of Chinese islands during World War II.

On the sidelines, Wang embarked on many bilateral meetings with counterparts from ASEAN members, including Brunei, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar.

Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Wang the overall relationship between the ASEAN and China is developing, and the two sides could showcase the strength of the ASEAN-China ties via dialogue, cooperation and new consensuses.

Singapore takes the rotating chair as China-ASEAN ties coordinator this year.

Wang said China is ready to work with all ASEAN members to "eliminate various internal and external disturbances and stick firmly to the correct direction of developing China-ASEAN ties".

Brunei Trade Minister Jock Seng Pehin Lim told Wang that his country would continue supporting the "dual track" approach it first proposed for South China Sea issues.

The first track is negotiations and consultations among countries directly concerned, while the second is joint efforts in ensuring peace and stability by China and ASEAN countries.

Li Jinming, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Xiamen University, said the meetings show the majority of ASEAN members do not want South China Sea issues to spin out of control.