The United States will defy China’s request to set aside the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in Malaysia this week. China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said if ever the WPS issue will be raised China will object.
However, in a press briefing at Washington, US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark C. Toner said US Secretary of State John Kerry is going to have meetings with ASEAN foreign ministers and the WPS issue can be expected to come up in the broader framework.
“Any issue that ASEAN considers important for the security of the region is a topic for conversation. And I think that it’s safe to say developments in the South China Sea are a critical aspect of regional security. So I think it’s natural in that context that they could be raised in ASEAN, in the ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) and EAS (East Asia Summit) meetings,” Toner said.
“This is a forum in which critical security issues need to be brought up and discussed, and frankly, as I just said, we believe that developments in the South China Sea meet that criteria,” Toner added.
He added that US and the international community have interests in West Philippine Sea issue. “The claimants, various claimants do, and the international community has interests at stake because it’s a critical waterway.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has tackled the said issue during the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (Retreat) this afternoon, August 4 in Kuala Lumpur. He also updated his ASEAN counterparts on the arbitration case filed by Philippines against China’s West Philippine Sea claim.
Secretary Del Rosario said China “has taken actions that have threatened freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight and raised the risk of miscalculations if not conflict. The Philippines has been directly affected by harassment of fishing vessels, destructive fishing activities, unilateral fishing ban, and audio challenges against aircraft flying over the South China Sea.”
“The final outcome of the arbitration under Annex VII of the UNCLOS will contribute to the peaceful and long-term resolution of overlapping maritime jurisdictions in the South China Sea,” he added.
ASEAN foreign ministers will be having several meetings with their counterparts in Asia and other regions this week.