All talks on the disputed South China Sea during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings would be rejected by China since it is a “sensitive” issue, said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin on Monday.
Liu Zhenmin, the Chinese diplomat, said that countries outside ASEAN should not interfere in the issue and member states should avoid all talks on the disputed waters since it is not “the right forum.”
China has long been confronting with its maritime neighbours Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei in the South China Sea territorial waters.
The parties’ overlapping claims on maritime transportation, navigation, exclusive economic zones, fishing grounds, undersea bed gas and oil reserves have already deteriorated the problem as China started to build the artificial islands last year.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is thought to be rich in oil and gas, and its speed of reclamation in the area has alarmed its neighbours.
The Vice FM’s remarks came after a meeting of the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers which kicks off in Kuala Lumpur.
"It [the disputed water issue] should not be discussed," said Liu.
"This is not the right forum. This is a forum for promoting cooperation,” he said.
“If the US raises the issue we shall of course object. We hope they will not."
Neither the United States nor China are members of the ASEAN, but have been invited to the meeting alongside some other countries outside the group.
The Philippines has been the loudest side against China’s territorial water claims so far in the region where the ASEAN has been maintaining a neutral stance towards China despite the increasing worries of its members, including both Manila and Beijing.
China and the ASEAN bloc had signed an agreement to abstain from invading uninhabited reefs and shoals in the South China Sea, as well as from building new constructions that are believed to further complicate the issue of territorial disputes among the 10-member bloc.
The Philippines has warned the bloc countries several times in the days of yore unless the ASEAN halts “Chinese revisionism,” the area would be taken under the “de facto Beijing control” in the medium term.
Manila had also filed a lawsuit against the Chinese claims in the international Arbitration Tribunal in 2013, a move that caused further deterioration of the bilateral relations.