Malaysia says Asean is 'amending' its criticism of Beijing's South China Sea actions

Asean warned earlier that China's land reclamation had the "potential to undermine peace".

The southeast Asian countries have changed their view on an earlier statement that expressed deep concern over China's actions in the disputed South China Sea, the Malaysian government has said.

The officials said "urgent amendments" would be made in this regard. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had warned earlier that recent actions in the disputed waters, including China's building of artificial islands, had the "potential to undermine peace".

The statement was made after "a candid exchange" that pointed to a diplomatic tussle between the bloc's foreign ministers and their Chinese counterpart in the Chinese city of Kunming.

"We have to retract the media statement by the ASEAN foreign ministers... as there are urgent amendments to be made," a Malaysian foreign ministry spokeswoman told AFP. She also said that the Secretariat had approved the release of the statement but that later the ministry was informed that it was being rescinded.

The Chinese foreign ministry expressed confusion over the release and denied there was any official document. "We have checked with the ASEAN side, and the so-called statement reported by AFP is not an official ASEAN document," Chinese spokesman Lu Kang said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea which acts as a route to a huge chunk of global shipping passes. It has started building artificial islands for military purpose boosting its claim over it.

Countries like Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam are competing with China over claims to parts of the sea.