Kuala Lumpur (dpa) – The Philippines accused China of “militarizing” the South China Sea and urged its regional neighbours Sunday to resist Beijing’s claims to disputed areas.
Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario said China was “infringing on the rights of the other states and damage the marine environment.”
“Massive reclamation was clearly intended to change the regional status quo,” Del Rosario told a meeting of foreign ministers ahead of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ summit later in the day.
“We believe that if these massive reclamations are allowed to be completed, our northern neighbour will succeed in defining and imposing its unlawful sovereignty claim over more than 85 per cent of the South China Sea,” he said.
ASEAN is comprised of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Del Rosario urged the bloc to take a strong stand against the Chinese reclamations in the South China Sea.
“Is it not time for ASEAN to say to our northern neighbour that what it is doing is wrong and that the massive reclamations must be immediately stopped?” he said.
ASEAN countries Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have territorial claims in the South China Sea, but Beijing claims nearly the entire area, which is a strategic international shipping lane.
ASEAN has been urging China to agree on a code of conduct in the South China Sea for more than a decade, but China prefers to deal with disputes in a bilateral manner.
The summit was expected to focus on the South China Sea disputes, among other issues affecting the region.
The two-day meeting would also examine initiatives for the regional single market that is scheduled to begin at the end of the year.