The Association of Southeast Asian nations issued, then swiftly retracted a tough statement on tensions in the South China Sea that may have offended meeting host China.

The statement from the 10-nation regional bloc expressed "serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments" in the strategic waterway, saying those had "eroded trust and confidence."

While it made no direct accusations against China, it referred to sensitivity over land reclamation in a nod to China's creation of man-made islands and the building of airstrips and other infrastructure atop them that is widely seen as an effort to strengthen China's claims to virtually the entire South China Sea.

The statement was issued Tuesday night following a China-ASEAN meeting in the southern Chinese city of Yuxi, but retracted just three hours later.