Envoys from across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond are in Brunei for regional security meetings set to focus on rival territorial claims to the South China Sea and the restarting of nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea.
As the 10-member ASEAN opened its annual Foreign Minister's Meeting Sunday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario renewed criticism of China for what he called a "massive" military buildup aimed at seizing control of energy and fishing rights in large parts of the sea. Friction between the the two countries has surged in the past two years to include several naval confrontations.
"They have constantly ships there that vary in number, and we are prevented in our own EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) from fishing, from sourcing our natural resources and from enforcing our laws."
Top diplomats from North Korea, the United States and four other nations involved in the now-stalled denuclearization talks are also due in the Brunei capital to attend related meetings, including the 20th ASEAN Regional Forum which opens Tuesday. In previous years, those meetings have provided an opportunity for discussions on pressing security issues.
North Korea has in recent weeks proposed restarting the stalled talks, which until 2008 provided the cash-strapped country with crucial energy and food aid in exchange for shuttering its nuclear program.
Pyongyang quit the talks that year and triggered international condemnation with a nuclear test in 2009 and a second test earlier this year.