Disputes over how to address the increasingly assertive role of China in the strategic waters of the South China Sea has placed the issue squarely as Southeast Asia’s biggest potential military flashpoint.
On Monday, the Philippines called on its Southeast Asian neighbors to unite in urging China to halt reclamation of land in the disputed waters.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) host Malaysia is set to give in to pressure from some neighbors and address the sensitive issue of land reclamations in the South China Sea with a draft summit statement saying such action may undermine peace, security and stability.
The statement to be issued after the closing ceremony of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur on Monday will raise the “serious concerns” of some leaders over the land reclamations, according to the draft statement seen by Reuters.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, defended China’s construction works in the disputed areas.
“China’s building on islands in the South China Sea is completely within the scope of China’s sovereignty; it is reasonable, fair and lawful. It does not affect any other country. Criticism by certain countries of china is totally unreasonable,” Hong told journalists at a regular press briefing.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
While many of the claimants have built facilities like airstrips on some of the islets and shoals they occupy, China’s efforts have been by far the most extensive and dramatic.
I wonder whose side New Zealand will be on. Given our dependency on China in so many areas its not hard to guess.