TOKYO - Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Wednesday emphasized that his country and the ASEAN have the ability to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea, during their online meeting, according to his ministry.
Beijing has sought an early conclusion of talks on a so-called code of conduct with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to avert clashes in the waters.
Wei's latest remarks indicated that Beijing has been irritated with apparent US intervention in issues related to the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than one-third of global trade passes.
Claiming sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, Beijing has rapidly built artificial islands with military infrastructure in the maritime area.
US operations there in an effective bid to challenge Chinese claims and actions in the waters.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier told a security forum tensions in the South China Sea will increase due to a US-China rivalry that could be kept in check, if only Southeast Asian countries took a united stand to influence the status quo.
The ASEAN was caught up in the battle for regional influence but it could do more to ensure stability and should take a common approach, he told a security forum.
China has conflicting territorial claims with four ASEAN members -- Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam -- as well as Taiwan in the South China Sea.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.--With a report from Reuters