VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — The Latest on the meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (all times local):
Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Anifah Aman has skipped key meetings of the Association of Southeast Nations this week in the Laotian capital, and the government has given no explanation.
Anifah Aman was represented by his ministry’s secretary-general, Othman Hashim, in talks Sunday and early Monday.
His absence is striking because Malaysia is one of the claimants in the dispute with China in the South China Sea, which has dominated talks at this year’s ASEAN foreign minister’s talks.
A Laotian official told The Associated Press that Anifah “will not attend the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting this year, probably because of a tight schedule.” The Malaysian delegation will be led by Othman, he says.
Anifah’s name was in the official list of attendees released by host Laos, and the Malaysian government issued a statement on Friday saying Anifah will lead the Malaysian delegation in the series of meetings in Laos from Saturday to Tuesday.
Foreign ministers of Southeast Asian countries began arriving at a convention center for an unscheduled last-ditch attempt to hammer a consensus on how to deal with China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea.
The ministers of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations met over three sessions on Sunday without result, thanks to Cambodia’s intransigence over allowing the grouping to chastise China. They decided to meet again on Monday morning ahead of their scheduled meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
China’s disputes with four ASEAN countries — the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei — has become a major diplomatic and potential security problem for the region. China has rejected a recent international tribunal verdict that says its claim over the entire South China Sea, which it asserts on historical grounds, is illegal.