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ASEAN: China has eroded trust in South China Sea

AFPSINGAPORE (AFP-Jiji) — China’s continued reclamation in the South China Sea has eroded trust among rival claimants and could raise regional tensions, Southeast Asian foreign ministers said Tuesday.

The ministers from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations did not mention China by name in their statement after a one-day meeting in Singapore, current chair of the grouping.

Beijing claims nearly all of the waterway and has been turning reefs and islets into islands and installing military facilities such as runways and equipment on them.

ASEAN members Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam as well as Taiwan also have partial claims in the waterway.

Ministers “took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” said Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in the statement.

China had in December defended its construction on disputed islands as “normal” after a U.S. think tank released new satellite images showing the deployment of radar and other equipment.

Following a meeting with ASEAN last year, China agreed to begin talks on a much-delayed code of conduct for the sea, which Balakrishnan warned would be a “complicated negotiation.”Speech

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