China, US clash at Asean forum over sea rows
CHINA rebuffed a United States proposal for countries to refrain from "provocative" acts in the South China Sea as growing tensions over territorial claims dominated a meeting of regional foreign ministers.
"It's no understatement that what happens here matters not just to this region and to the US but it matters to everybody in the world," US Secretary of State John Kerry said on the first day of the Asean Regional Forum in Naypyitaw, Myanmar.
"That's why we're encouraging claimant states to consider voluntarily agreeing to refrain from taking certain actions" that would lead to escalated disputes, he said on Saturday.
Despite China's clashes with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that talk of rising tensions was exaggerated.
"We do not agree with such a practice, and we call for vigilance in the motives behind them," Mr Wang said. "Any proposal to come up with an alternative would only disrupt discussion of the code of conduct."
Tensions between Mr Wang and Mr Kerry were apparent - the Chinese minister began his press briefing by scolding his US counterpart for being late.
"We have been here at 4.30pm, waiting for you for more than half an hour," Mr Wang said, prompting an apology from Mr Kerry.
A senior US official said Asean countries' concern over the South China Sea tension was at an "all-time high" based on private conversations, although their public statements were more guarded, to avoid antagonising China.
Asean said in a communique: "We urge all parties concerned to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions which would complicate the situation and undermine peace, stability and security in the South China Sea."