Washington, until recently, was active in the South China Sea maritime dispute with its freedom of navigation operations in a bid to counter China's military expansion on the islands.
The chairman's statement meant to reflect the views of all Asean leaders would neither mention the worldwide tribunal ruling nor China directly, according to a draft obtained by AFP.
"This is very different, whereas before, China and Asean member-states do not even want to start discussion on the framework on the code of conduct".
North Korea sent its Thailand-based ambassador to Manila recently "to suggest that North Korea not be put under pressure" during the Asean meetings hosted by the Philippines, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorised to discuss the matter with the media.
Duterte earlier in the day had called for "peaceful resolution of disputes" and respect for rule of law, saying, "In an era where there can be much uncertainty, we must faithfully adhere to the supremacy of the law and rely on the primacy of rules as responsible members of the global community".
The issue will be one of the points expected to be raised at the 30th ASEAN Summit tomorrow, to be hosted by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
It also did not mention the abiding by "universally recognized principles of worldwide law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea" that was in the draft statement.
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The line was eventually removed from the South China Sea topic to be included elsewhere in the latest version of the statement by Asean, AP noted.
They said four Asean members wanted it retained, and that there were hot debates on the issue. The Philippines' chairmanship comes less than a year after Manila won a case against Beijing over the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea. "But I will say, Mr. President, just see to it there is no war because my region will suffer immensely - the first fallout would be us and Asia, very near, very risky", Duterte said.
Patron explained that as far as he knows, ASEAN leaders "exercised their independence".
"Since past year, with the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries including the Philippines, temperatures in the South China Sea situation have gone down and things have eased up".
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak hopes the more aggressive stand taken by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte against extremists such as the Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines will improve the security in that region.
"In sum, although some ASEAN ministers feel progress is being made on managing maritime disputes in the South China Sea, the reality is that ASEAN is gradually accepting that the South China Sea has become China's lake", Thayer said.
"They should be free from any interference from any countries". For example, China pledged Dollars $15 billion in investment in the Philippines and financing for 15 infrastructure projects, including two railways, a hydroelectric dam and an irrigation system. "But he really wants to finish everything and he wants to drag us all down". ASEAN members and China will then start negotiating for the actual code after they concluded its framework.