The Jakarta Post
Indonesia has insisted that consensus had been reached over the retracted joint statement emphasizing the "serious concerns" of ASEAN member countries regarding the South China Sea dispute, a government official has said, adding that the statement is consistent with the regional bloc's stance on the issue.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said the statement, which was released at the end of a special foreign ministers' meeting between ASEAN and China in Kunming, China, on June 14, had been agreed upon by all participants of the dialogue but that consensus about the mechanism for its dissemination had not been reached.
"It was supposed to be read out during a press briefing following the meeting […] but that was cancelled," Arrmanatha told reporters on Thursday, adding that the meeting had gone over the originally scheduled finishing time.
The statement contains a commitment by ASEAN member countries to maintain peace and stability in the region, especially highlighting the South China Sea issue. In it, ASEAN expressed concerns over activities that could undermine common goals, including "land reclamation, which may give rise to tensions," - generally understood to be a reference to China's activities in the contested area.
The statement was disseminated by Malaysia following the two-day meeting but was soon retracted on the grounds that amendments still had to be made. However, a final statement is yet to emerge.
The situation has caused confusion with questions raised as to whether the statement had not been finalized before it was released. Arrmanatha insisted that the content had already been agreed upon by all participants, adding ASEAN’s stance taken in the statement is consistent with previously published documents calling for full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in regards to resolving the South China Sea dispute. It was meant to be a guideline for foreign ministers to use during the press briefing, Arrmanatha said.
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