China leaning on Singapore to keep ASEAN calm over South China Sea

Working hand in hand  Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman Myanmar Minister of State of Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin Thailand Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh Philippine Foreign Sec

Working hand in hand Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman Myanmar Minister of State of Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin Thailand Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh Philippine Foreign Sec

Southeast Asian diplomats told reporters that earlier drafts of the Asean statement was silent on China's island-building and militarisation of the South China Sea.

"The South China Sea doesn't only include the Spratly Islands, and for Vietnam, developments on the disputed Paracels are just as destabilising".

There was mention in the ASEAN communiqué of a proposed Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, aimed at maintaining peace in the region through self-restraint in settling disputes. "They have accomplished more than that", she said.

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Adm. Harry Harris told the U.S. -Indonesia Friendship Society in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Monday that China's rejection of an global tribunal's ruling in 2016 that supported the territorial claims of the Philippines "demonstrates to any observer what kind of country China is". Neither China's defence ministry nor its foreign ministry immediately responded to a request for comment.

As a sign of the booming ties between China and the 10-country group, China has been Asean's largest trade partner for eight years.

"The ministers further urged ASEAN member states and China to ensure that the code of conduct be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with worldwide law", according to a joint statement on August 6 by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. China has since built installations, including runways, on several islands and islets also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. The meeting was hosted by Manila and attended by 1,700 delegates. They (China) are not reclaiming land anymore. The rapprochement between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, defused a tense standoff between the Asian neighbors last year at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where China allowed Filipinos back to fish in October as years of thorny relations began to brighten.

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"That's why, if you look at our statement, it is directed to all states that we shouldn't do anything in the area unilaterally and shouldn't do anything that will make us regret and lose trust and lead to conflict", Cayetano said.

Singapore also has some ties with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a breakaway province.

The South China Morning Post has followed up with story citing two reasons why Vietnam is especially sensitive to China's claims to territory in the South China Sea - it has both land and sea borders with China, and as a geographically narrow coastal country, is vulnerable to maritime attack.

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