China has expressed anger at remarks made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretary general Le Luong Minh on the disputed South China Sea, , rejecting Chinese claims based on the so-called nine-dash line.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the ASEAN chief’s remarks are “highly inappropriate” for the latter’s position since Mr. Le only served in the official capacity as the secretary-general of the 10-member association.
The Chinese official insists their sovereignty claims in nearly the whole of the South China Sea is backed with “abundant historical and jurisprudential evidence”; a position he said China has always been clear and consistent about.
But analysts say that Beijing's assertiveness is only pulling the bloc closer together. Until recently, the ten-member group had taken a softer stance on territorial disputes involving some of its member states, limiting itself to expressing concerns and calling for a peaceful resolution.
The Chinese claim almost the entire South China
Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei and triggering territorial disputes. Vietnam has repeatedly complained about aggressive Chinese moves in the seas.
Le Loung Minh, a long-time Vietnamese diplomat, said China’s dotted line is not binding, and the issue on South China Sea disputes is of “paramount importance” that any hostility or conflict that will arise from such misunderstanding will be detrimental to the region’s process of community building.
“Since 2009 when China asserted the dotted line concept and claim, one of the Asean countries lodged a protest with the UN,” the ASEAN chief said in an interview with The Manila Times last week.
"ASEAN belongs to the ASEAN family not a certain country," Chinese spokesperson said, adding Le's comments had damaged ASEAN's image as a regional organization.
"We advise Mr. Le Luong Minh do his part as ASEAN secretary-general, stick to ASEAN's neutrality on the South China Sea issue
, and do more to promote the healthy development of China-ASEAN relations," said the spokesperson.