(From Reuters)

Southeast Asian nations expressed serious concern on Saturday about growing international tension over disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy patrol at Woody Island

Friction has increased over China’s recent deployment of missiles and fighter jets to the disputed Paracel island chain.

“Ministers remained seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments,” the 10-members Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN) said in a statement after a regular meeting of the group’s foreign ministers in Laos.

Land reclamation and escalating activity has increased tensions and could undermine peace, security and stability in the region, ASEAN said in the statement.

The United States has criticized China’s building of artificial islands and facilities in the sea and has sailed warships close to disputed territory to assert the right to freedom of navigation.

On Friday, the United States urged China’s President Xi Jinping to prevent the militarization of the region.

Vietnam, which accused China of violating its sovereignty with the missile deployment, echoed the U.S. call on Saturday.

“We call for non-militarization in the South China Sea,” Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh told reporters after meeting his ASEAN colleagues.

“We have serious concerns about that,” he said, when asked about China’s increasing military activity in the region. Read More

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