ASEAN defense ministers express concern over US-China confrontation

Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers have expressed concern over an escalating confrontation between the United States and China involving the South China Sea.

The ministers called on all parties involved to cooperate constructively and peacefully, in a joint declaration released on Wednesday after their in-person meeting in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

They said such cooperation is necessary to ensure peace and stability in the sea.

The ministers also emphasized the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive code of conduct.

Their comments come as China's increased military activities in the region prompt the US to expand its involvement there.

The ministers also agreed to maintain efforts to bring about a peaceful transition to normalcy in Myanmar by supporting the activities of the ASEAN special envoy who is tasked with mediating among the military and pro-democracy forces.

Myanmar's military-appointed defense minister was allowed to participate in the ASEAN meeting, triggering a wave of criticism from over 600 civic groups in the country and elsewhere.