CHINA TOPIX

Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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ASEAN Countries Retract Critical Statement on South China Sea

South China Sea Dispute.

(Photo : Getty Images.) The ASEAN countries on Wednesday retracted a critical statement on South China Sea, which was issued at the end of special ASEAN-China foreign ministers meeting.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday issued a critical statement on the ongoing South China Sea issue only to retract it later.

The tough statement expressing deep concerns over the rising tensions in the maritime region was supposedly aimed at China. However, China was not directly mentioned in the statement.

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"We expressed our serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and which may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea," said the statement.

The statement, issued by the Malaysian foreign ministry on Tuesday, came in the wake of a meeting between Chinese officials and ASEAN members in the Chinese city of Kunming.

Hours after the statement was issued, the Malaysian foreign ministry retracted the statement, citing that "urgent amendments" needed to be done and an updated statement would soon be released.

However, the ministry later said that no updated joint statement would be issued and all countries would be issuing their own individual statements.    

The Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the meeting in Kunming was a closed-door affair and there was never a plan to issue a joint statement.

However, several analysts claim that the initial statement was just too critical of China and therefore had to be withdrawn. Ian Storey, an analyst at Singapore's ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute, said the retraction of the earlier statement completely demonstrated the lack of unity among the ASEAN members over the South China Sea dispute.

China is locked in dispute with several of its neighbors over the maritime territory China claims the entire region as its own and has been accused of assertively staking its claim over the same in recent months.

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