China: SE Asia ministers concerned over Beijing's activities in South China Sea

Meeting in Singapore, the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Tuesday aired concerns over China’s activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea, noting that land reclamation continued even after talks began between their 10-member bloc and Beijing to agree a code of conduct.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said, "We discussed the matters relating to the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclaimations in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region”.

Singapore has taken over the role of chairing ASEAN for 2018, and this week hosts meetings of the group’s foreign and defence ministers. China and ASEAN adopted a negotiating framework for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea in August.

Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines claim some or all of the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest sea routes. China claims most of the waterway and has been aggressively building and militarizing artificial islands. Both sides hailed the move as a sign of progress, with China welcoming the talks as an opportunity to bolster mutual understanding and trust.

Critics, however, suspect Beijing of buying time to consolidate its maritime power.