Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary General Le Luong Minh has said that the ASEAN was not the venue to resolve sovereignty claims over the South China Sea.
"We have to be able to separate, to expect these sovereignty claims. I mean we have only four Asean countries who are claimants -Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia," said Minh.
He, however, stated that ASEAN was the venue to regulate the conduct of all parties in the territorial dispute.
According to the secretary, the South China Sea issue was one aspect of ASEAN with China and it was not needed for other ASEAN countries to have a position on this.
"We don't require; we don't even ask; we don't request other Asean countries to have a position with regards to the sovereignty claims of the claimants," Minh said.
The ASEAN general secretary's remarks came after it was reported, on Monday, that the November 11 draft of the Chairman's Statement to be issued at the end of the 31st ASEAN Summit leaves out the section on the South China Sea dispute. In its place are the words "Chair to provide" in brackets.
This left the development to speculations that the leaders of ASEAN may leave the maritime dispute up to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to express the regional bloc's position on recent developments in the contested South China Sea.
"[The] Chairman's Statement has yet to be finalised pending the actual conclusion of the Summit, so we will only see the final language of the Statement afterwards," CNN quoted Philippines Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar, as saying, on Tuesday.
President Duterte had, on Sunday, said the territorial dispute was "better left untouched", in his speech at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.