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ASEAN Ministers Expected to Discuss South China Sea

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In this May 21, 2015 file photo, Chinese vessels are seen the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has competing claims with many members of ASEAN to parts of the South China Sea. (REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters)
In this May 21, 2015 file photo, Chinese vessels are seen the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has competing claims with many members of ASEAN to parts of the South China Sea. (REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters)

Ministers of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this week. They are expected to discuss the South China Sea territorial issue and take steps towards agreements to ensure peace in the area.

VOA's Khmer service received ASEAN documents before the meeting. The documents indicate that ministers expect to express strong support for peace and stability. They would also reportedly support "the freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight."

South China Sea Territorial Claims
South China Sea Territorial Claims

The documents say ministers also are working toward a so-called "Declaration of Conduct," a step towards a set of rules designed to avoid conflict in the South China Sea. The documents say a statement is expected to be read by the chairman at the end of the meeting on August 6.

In addition, the ministers are expected to express concern over China's land reclamation and building efforts in the South China Sea. They are expected to try to avoid unilateral action or any use of force that would destabilize the region.

However, speaking before the ASEAN meeting, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said Monday the South China Sea would not be discusses at the meeting. He said the meeting should avoid sensitive issues and added that countries outside ASEAN should not interfere.

Reuters news agency says the issue is not on the official agenda, but expectations are high that it will be discussed. Neither China nor the United States are members of ASEAN. However, both countries have been invited to the meetings as well as several other non-member countries. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday and Thursday.

Reuters, also noting a version of ASEAN documents, reported that leaders were concerned with the recent events in the South China Sea. It added that there was a great need to deal with the reduction of trust among the parties involved in the area.

It is estimated that $5 trillion worth of trade travels through the waters of the South China Sea. China claims most of the territory and rejects many of the claims of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Working groups from ASEAN and China meeting in July and August have agreed to deal with maritime issues "in a spirit of good neighborliness" and in honor of international law.

Ten Southeast Asian nations are members of ASEAN. However, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, the United States, the European Union, Russia and India have also been invited to Malaysia.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Sok Khemara of VOA Khmer Service reported this story. Mario Ritter wrote it for Learning English, with additional material from Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

navigation - n. the act of moving a boat or ship through the water

unimpeded - adj. unblock; able to move forward with being held back

conclusion - n. something that is reached at the end of a process

unilateral - adj. action taken by only one side in an issue or dispute

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