World

South China Sea tensions spill over to meeting of Asian defense chiefs, plus U.S

  • China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, right, sits before the start of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (AP Photo)

    China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, right, sits before the start of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

  • China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, center, shakes hands with India's Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar before the start of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (AP Photo)

    China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, center, shakes hands with India's Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar before the start of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

Senior American defense officials say divisions within Asia created by China's disputed claims to underwater islands in the South China Sea have spilled over to a meeting of Southeast Asian defense ministers that is being attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The officials said Wednesday that China, which like the United States is not a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations but was attending the meeting as an invited partner, was pushing to exclude from the meeting's final public statement any mention of the South China Sea.

China's claims in the South China Sea are disputed by several countries in the region, including Malaysia, which is hosting the meeting.

The U.S. defense officials spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations over the meeting's final statement were ongoing.