Earlier in the day, a number of Western media reported, citing a US delegation member, that the ceremony was delayed over US-Chinese South China Sea territory issues.
According to a defense ministry statement posted to its Weibo social network account, China had previously agreed with other states on the declaration's wording. Malaysia reportedly wanted the document to include a reference to China’s territorial claims in the region.
"However, several other countries outside of the region, despite the consensus, tried to forcefully enter in the text content unrelated to the topic of the ASEAN defense ministers meeting. In these conditions the forum was unable to publish the joint statement at the scheduled time, the countries outside of the region are completely responsible," the statement said.
The United States has repeatedly warned it does not recognize Chinese claims of sovereignty over the islands, and raised concerns over Beijing’s activities in the region.
The situation became heated when China strongly criticized the United States after US naval destroyer USS Lassen sailed inside the 12-mile limit of the Spratly archipelago. Washington responded that the maneuver was not in violation of international law.