CHINA scored another diplomatic victory on Saturday when the Southeast Asian leaders removed from their final statement the line that urges China to avoid reclamation and militarization in the disputed South China Sea (SCS) so as not to escalate tensions in the region.
The Philippines’ case over China, invalidating Beijing's expansive nine dash line claims in the SCS, was not mentioned.
In the final ASEAN Chairman's Statement, ASEAN heads of state only "took note of concerns expressed by some Leaders over recent developments in the area."
"We reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation and over-flight in and above the South China Sea," the statement said.
They also "reaffirmed the importance of the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and avoiding actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursuing the peaceful resolution of disputes, without resorting to the threat or use of force."
Also deleted was the line calling for “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes” in dealing with the SCS issue.
Last year, China also scored a victory as Southeast Asian nations dropped a U.S.-backed proposal to mention a landmark international court ruling against Beijing's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea in a joint statement.
Earlier, China had requested the Philippines not to tackle the issue of The Hague ruling on the SCS in the ASEAN Summit.