The Philippines called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to speak in one voice and urge China to halt land reclamation activities in the South China Sea.
In a speech to foreign ministers Sunday ahead of an ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur, Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said the “northern neighbor” was quickly advancing with land reclamation.
He was obviously referring to China without naming it directly.
“Is it not time for ASEAN to say to our northern neighbor that what it is doing is wrong and that the massive reclamations must be immediately stopped?” Rosario said, according to Reuters.
The comments came after recent satellite images indicated that China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory in the Spratly islands and in building an airstrip suitable for military use.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Its claims overlap with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Beijing has said the recent construction is meant to serve civilian purposes such as fishing and search and rescue.
At the ministers’ meeting Sunday, only the Philippines and Vietnam spoke about the South China Sea dispute, while the other states were more concerned about setting up a single time zone, a diplomat told Reuters.
Summit host Malaysia, meanwhile, is likely to steer clear of criticizing China, according to the report.
The ASEAN summit will officially open on Monday.
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