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South China Sea Talks End in Disarray as China Lobbies Laos

  • Retracted joint statement said sea spat an ‘issue’ with China
  • Individual Asean states starting to issue their own statements
China's and ASEAN foreign ministers meet in Yuxi on June 14.

China's and ASEAN foreign ministers meet in Yuxi on June 14.

Photographer: AFP via Getty Images
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A meeting in China of foreign ministers from Southeast Asian nations over the South China Sea ended in confusion after Malaysia released and then retracted a joint statement  expressing “serious concerns” over developments in the disputed waterway.

The disarray raises fresh questions about unity within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ahead of an international court ruling on a Philippine challenge to China’s claims to more than 80 percent of the waterway. Asean operates on consensus, which means all members must agree on a statement before it is released.