News / Asia

    ASEAN Leader to Push Consensus on South China Sea Disputes

    Vietnam's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Luong Minh is seen after the ASEAN flag raising ceremony in Hanoi, August 8, 2012.
    Vietnam's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Luong Minh is seen after the ASEAN flag raising ceremony in Hanoi, August 8, 2012.
    Daniel Schearf
    The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has appointed its first secretary-general from Vietnam, a one-party communist state and one of four ASEAN members in conflict with China over territory in the South China Sea.  ASEAN has struggled over the past year to form a consensus on the issue and having a leader from Vietnam will keep the spotlight on the dispute.  But political analysts say Vietnamese leadership will also be more reserved and cautious in seeking agreement on the issue.  

    Le Luong Minh Tuesday officially takes over the rotating  position of ASEAN secretary-general from Thailand's Surin Pitsuwan.   

    The veteran diplomat comes from Vietnam's Foreign Ministry and served as ambassador to the United Nations.

    His leadership of ASEAN, the first by Vietnam, comes at a time of tensions with an increasingly assertive Beijing over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

    China claims almost all of the sea, believed to be rich in oil, gas and fish.  ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims over the waters.

    The conflict has led to tense maritime stand-offs, arrests of fishermen, and heated rhetoric over sovereignty.

    ASEAN summits this past year in Cambodia failed to negotiate a long-delayed code of conduct to prevent escalation.

    Political analysts say China's influence on Cambodia and other non-claimants to the territory was to blame.

    Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Kyoto University.  Speaking via Skype, he says a secretary-general from Vietnam will be more active in pushing for ASEAN consensus on the issue.

    "You know, it can also achieve its own national interest if this were to be discussed within ASEAN.  And, secondly, you know, Vietnam can claim that it support the ASEAN approach in trying to deal with an issue like this," he says. "You know, in trying to prove that dispute settlement mechanism in ASEAN has been working.  So, I think it could be a win-win situation."

    Outgoing Thai Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan was well-regarded for his engaging and outspoken leadership in ASEAN.

    Political analysts say Vietnamese style will be less public and transparent with its efforts.  But, in dealing with China, more subtlety might help.

    Beijing is going through a once-every-decade leadership transition until March that observers are watching carefully.

    Carl Thayer is professor of politics at the Australian Defense Force Academy.  He says a period of quiet diplomacy between ASEAN and China is most likely and most needed.

    "This is not a time to go full steam ahead because of Chinese attitudes and the leadership transition…  Xi Jinping may be the General Secretary but he's not yet assumed the Presidency…So, between now and then is not to challenge China and entrench it, but to wait out this period and then to see if a new leader and a new team in Beijing can be dealt with by ASEAN," explained Thayer. "So, it's low profile on the South China Sea, not putting it away."

    Thayer says China should be reassured by the less public diplomacy style of its neighbor, which should compliment this year's ASEAN chair - the Sultan of Brunei.

    Chachavalpongpun says it is in Beijing's interest to tone down the tensions as well.

    "You know, China also need ASEAN too in terms of its own economic development.  How can China further improve economy, further, how to say, strengthen its economic growth in an environment that is hostile to China itself," he stated. " I think China will need to look into building up or encouraging a more peaceful environment for China's own benefit."

    Beijing may also welcome the irony of Vietnam, as a fellow communist one-party state, taking over as secretary of ASEAN.

    The Southeast Asian group was formed in 1967 in solidarity against communism but expanded its membership to become a more inclusive regional political and economic body.

    ASEAN founders Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand have each held the secretary-general post at least twice.

    The other ASEAN members are Burma and Laos.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: mhee from: Philippines
    January 02, 2013 2:24 AM
    It is a must for the ASEAN countries to unite in order to win their territorial claim.as the saying goes, "United we stand divided we fall"

    by: Veritas
    January 01, 2013 7:15 PM
    Professional squatters usually work in syndicate. Using fake titles and maps they grab large tracts of land and waterways from real owners. For semblance of possession they build fences and passageways, workplaces and shelters. They refuse appeals to prove their rights in court, for they know they would lose against the true owners. Instead they employ armed bands to enforce their land-grab, and publicists to distort the truth. Respecting no one, they flout the law and public outrage. They delay inevitable eviction with blarney or harassment. Meantime, they profit from the illegal takeover, by directly exploiting resources or by subletting.

    There are a billion squatters worldwide, mostly penurious and landless, and only a handful of land-grab syndicates. The biggest of the latter is China’s dictatorial party.

    China uses baseless ancient rights and maps to lay claim to the entire South China Sea and scores of islets, shoals, and reefs. Such claim goes against geologic science and international law, particularly freedom of navigation. But China is unperturbed. It also ignores verified historical accounts and maps, particularly of Vietnam and the Philippines, about the Paracel and the Spratly archipelagoes and landforms abutting their shores. It flouts the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, even if it is a signatory, by disrespecting the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of the two countries, and of Malaysia and Brunei.

    China has built military facilities in three of the islets and reefs, feigning at first to be doing so for fishermen of all nations. In pretense of true ownership, its navy patrols the seawaters, as if that would make genuine its unfounded nine-dash line map. Recently it clashed with Vietnamese sailors in the Paracels, and harassed Filipino marine surveyors and fishermen in the Recto Bank and Panatag Shoal.

    The Philippines has challenged China to settle the claim once and for all before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. But China refuses. It knows it has no chance of winning. That’s why it uses instead armed might and guile, including putting up traitorous public officials and pseudo-journalists as spokesmen. Because the Philippines refuses to be cowered or fooled, China also employs trade and tourism embargoes. It plays deaf to world opinion about its undiplomatic breaks of UN pacts, and mobilizes vassal states to thwart those that stand up to it.

    China chatters about a supposed peaceful economic rise and joint use of the disputed area. But all that aims only to avoid peaceful resolution. One cannot expect peace from an avaricious bully-squatter whose real intent is to build an invisible Great Wall across the Pacific Ocean.

    Like a true professional squatter, China is ravaging the sea like there’s no tomorrow. Fake owners think not of conserving resources in the grabbed territory. China scours the sea of marine life, even endangered species, for food and ornaments. It is slurping petroleum from offshore wells close to Vietnam, and has leased out parts of these to privateers. Nonstop too is the search for undersea minerals and rare-earth metals.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora