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ASEAN countries concern over China's actions in South China Sea

ASEAN countries concern over China's actions in South China SeaThe Philippines said that Southeast Asian countries see China's installation of weapons systems in the South China Sea as "very unsettling" and have urged dialogue to stop an escalation of "recent developments", Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The region's foreign ministers were unanimous in their concern over China's militarization of its artificial islands, but were confident a framework for a code of maritime conduct could be agreed with Beijing by June, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said.

Yasay did not say what developments provoked the concern, but said the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) hoped China and the United States would ensure peace and stability.

He said ASEAN wanted a framework for devising a maritime code of conduct between China and the grouping to be completed by June, and Beijing had shown it was keen for it to be finished.

"The ASEAN members have been unanimous in their expression of concern about what they see as a militarization of the region," Yasay told reporters after a ministers' retreat on the Philippine island of Boracay.

Referring to China's man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago, Yasay said ASEAN countries had "noticed, very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this."

With the Philippines chairing the bloc this year, Yasay's comments signal a rare, firm position by a grouping that often struggles to achieve consensus, due to its contrasting opinions on how to respond to China's assertiveness.

ASEAN's statements of concern often avoid mentioning China by name. Much is at stake from upsetting China, as ASEAN members, to varying extents, are under its influence and need its trade, investment and tourists.
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