MANILA, Philippines – China claimed that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was not criticizing them when the regional bloc issued a statement raising concerns about the island building and militarization in the disputed South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also slammed the US, Australia, and Japan for a joint statement that "expressed serious concerns" over the South China Sea disputes. (READ: US, Australia, Japan to PH: Follow the ruling you won)
Wang made these remarks after the ASEAN joint statement on Sunday, August 6, was stronger than expected. Cambodia had reportedly resisted mentioning China's land reclamation in the statement, but Vietnam wanted tough language.
In a press conference in Manila on Monday, August 7, Wang said: "I also want to tell you that two years ago, China had already completed the reclamation. That is something that I can tell you for sure."
"So if there's a question of the mentioning of the reclamation wording, it is not China. Maybe the countries that are talking about it are the ones doing it," the Chinese foreign minister said.
On the militarization of the South China Sea, Wang said the joint communiqué "actually says that all the states must exercise restraint regarding non-militarization."
"So 'all states' means all the regional countries and non-regional countries," Wang said.
"You can imagine that of all countries, who is the most powerful, who is the most capable, and who is most active in doing militarization, and the answer is straightforward," Wang said, in apparent reference to the US.
China, however, is the country with the most extensive land reclamation and militarization activities in the South China Sea, according to experts. (IN PHOTOS: The China build-up)
On the joint statement of the US, Japan, and Australia, Wang said: "Is it that they don't want to see greater stability in the South China Sea? Is it that greater stability in the South China Sea actually doesn't serve their own interests? Is that the case?" – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.