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ASEAN countries retract statement

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Southeast Asian countries withdrew a statement that expressed the region’s deep concerns over rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea, where China has been involved in territorial disputes.

The strongly-worded statement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), released by the Malaysian foreign ministry, did not name China directly but warned against raising tensions in the contested waters, where Beijing has been building artificial islands and increasing its military presence.

“We expressed our serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and which may have the potential to undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea,” said the statement, which was issued following a meeting in the Chinese city of Kunming between ASEAN and China’s foreign ministers.

But just hours later, a Malaysian ministry spokeswoman recalled the statement, saying “urgent amendments” needed to be made and an updated version would be distributed. However, no updated joint statement was later issued and the spokeswoman said countries would now issue individual statements.