ASEAN Summit marked by South China Sea row

Tepid criticism in draft statement of Asian summit in Laos seen as reflection of China’s economic and military clout.

Asian leaders have played down tensions over the South China Sea in a carefully worded summit statement In Vientiane, Laos.

However, even before it was issued China voiced frustration on Thursday with countries outside the region “interfering” in tussles over the strategic waterway.

The lukewarm rebuke is a reflection of China’s diplomatic, economic and military clout within the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is spearheading the summit with the US, China and six other nations: Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Together they are attending the East Asia Summit in the Laotian capital.

The 10 ASEAN heads of state and the leaders of the six other countries together with US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in and over-flight in the South China Sea”.

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