China victory as SE Asian nations go easy on sea row

Foreign ministers of China (2L), Singapore (2R), Vietnam (L) and the Philippines (R) join hands before a group photo during the ASEAN-China forum on the sidelines of the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Vientiane on July 25, 2016Southeast Asian nations Monday avoided direct criticism of Beijing over its claims to the South China Sea, in a diluted statement produced after days of disagreement that gives the superpower a diplomatic victory. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) sidestepped any mention of a ruling by a UN-backed tribunal in early July that rejected China’s territorial claims and infuriated Beijing. Instead, ASEAN, gathered in the Laos capital Vientiane for the first time since the ruling, called for “self-restraint” from all parties in the strategic waterway in a soft statement that edged away from a showdown with regional powerhouse China.

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