China is dismissing U.S. calls for a freeze on "provocative acts" in disputed waters of the South China Sea.
Addressing reporters Saturday at a meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, also known as Burma, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rejected calls by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to manage maritime disputes based on international law.
Calling the situation in the South China Sea stable, Wang restated China's position of protecting its regional sovereignty.
As "responsible great power," Wang said, "China is ready to maintain restraint, but for unreasonable provocative activities, China is bound to make a clear and firm reaction."
The United States has accused China of asserting itself militarily in territorial disputes with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines in the South China Sea, and in competing claims with Japan over a group of uninhabited islands northeast of Taiwan.
While at the conference, Kerry said ASEAN members needed to work together to manage tensions peacefully and that the organization has a unique responsibility to ensure security of critical global sea lanes and ports.
According to Carl Thayer, a defense analyst at Australia's University of New South Wales, Wang's dismissal of Kerry's comments, made with the backing of some ASEAN member states, only reaffirms China's long-established position on the South China Sea dispute resolution.
"ASEAN won't give a united position to China because they fear it will be rejected, and that China [will say] 'we want Laos, Cambodia, and everybody else to tell us what they think,'" he said, calling China's position on the South China Sea part of a "diplomatic game" designed to marginalize U.S. influence and create divisions within the ASEAN community.
"So they are playing quite well in that disarray and I just can't see China is serious in any of this," he said.
ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh of Vietnam said Kerry's proposal was not formally discussed, adding that mechanisms are already in place to address issues of land reclamation and building on disputed islands.
The Philippines also appeared to step back from earlier calls for a moratorium on so-called "provocative activities."
Aside from this weekend's ASEAN foreign ministers meeting, delegates are set to meet with representatives from "dialogue partner" countries, including Russia, Japan, India, Australia, the European Union as well as the U.S.