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ASEAN to keep mum on SCS ruling: diplomats

Southeast Asia will not issue a statement on the rejection of Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea by an international tribunal, regional diplomats said on Thursday, blaming the no-comment on pressure by Beijing.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had weighed whether to speak out on Tuesday’s ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, said Southeast Asian diplomats with knowledge of the matter. But 10-member ASEAN, whose unity has been increasingly strained in the face of Chinese expansionism, could not find common ground, they said.

“ASEAN officials had prepared a draft text but there was no agreement to release a joint statement,” said a Southeast Asian diplomat, adding that China was believed to have leaned on its ASEAN allies Laos and Cambodia to prevent a statement in the highly charged affair.

“Some ASEAN countries are definitely not happy. Beijing’s action can be seen as interference in ASEAN’s centrality,” the source said. Chinese pressure was blamed last month for a startling diplomatic U-turn by ASEAN, which swiftly disowned a joint statement released by Malaysia after an ASEAN-China meeting. That statement had expressed alarm over Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea. 
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