News / Asia

South China Sea Dispute Remains Problem for ASEAN

U.S. President Barack Obama (5th L) participates in a family photo with ASEAN leaders during the ASEAN Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, November 19, 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama (5th L) participates in a family photo with ASEAN leaders during the ASEAN Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, November 19, 2012.
Irwin Loy
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] emerged from a key leader summit Tuesday with progress on potential trade alliances and the economy. It still appeared divided, though, on what continues to be a controversial issue: the South China Sea and multiple countries claiming territorial ownership.

Going into this week's leaders summit, ASEAN members had hoped for a resounding show of unity following explosive meetings in July that exposed divisions through the 10-member bloc.

By the end of the summit Tuesday, ASEAN members were claiming some degree of progress on the South China Sea dispute. But the final day of meetings also showed the regional bloc is far from united on the issue.

Philippines take issue

The Philippines, ASEAN’s most outspoken claimant, still objected to how the bloc’s chair, Cambodia, had declared that leaders agreed not to “internationalize” the maritime dispute.

Albert del Rosario is the Philippines’ foreign affairs secretary.

“We think that it is the inherent right of any sovereign country to be able to protect its national interest. So that’s the position we have taken," he said. "As far as we are concerned, the rules on consensus means everyone must be on board. Obviously we’re not on board, so there is no consensus."

China flexes muscle

Four ASEAN countries claim parts of the energy-rich sea. But it is China’s large claim over the sea that has caused disagreements within ASEAN. China in the past has not wanted ASEAN involvement in negotiations concerning the South China Sea.

In July, Cambodia was accused of siding with China on the issue. Any thoughts of a repeat of another public meltdown to end the meetings were quashed Tuesday, however, when Cambodia released a watered down chairman’s statement summarizing the week’s discussions.

“On the issue of the South China Sea, ASEAN leaders agreed to continue to address this issue in the existing ASEAN-China framework,” said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, speaking through an interpreter.

Officals stress unity

ASEAN officials also were downplaying any disagreements on the issue.

“I think it’s a matter of interpretation," said Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN’s secretary general. "As far as I am concerned there is a consensus that we would like to pursue the issue without having it affecting other constructive, other positive momentum that we are trying to create, that we have achieved here so that we can look into the future. We can look into the horizon that a lot of potentials must be harvested for all of us now. If the interpretation would obstruct my rights to pursue my interest into the future through other channels that was not it was meant. It meant that you have all the rights whatever member state but here we are trying to pursue it within the framework of cooperation, framework of coordination and we will be conscious of the fact that we have a larger agenda up in front of us.”

Consensus or not, ASEAN says there is a renewed commitment to implementing a decade-old Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, known as a DOC - a broad pledge to resolve the matter through peaceful means.

But the bloc appears no closer to actually solving the territorial dispute. With the conclusion of another leaders’ meeting, countries are still unable to peg a timeline to begin negotiations on a long-elusive Code of Conduct [COC], that might settle the dispute.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Manh from: Hanoi, Vietnam
November 22, 2012 11:40 PM
This is not South China Sea, if we can call it in English, It's East Sea, and in Vietnamese, we call it "Biển Đông", it not belong to China, it is sea of ASEAN

by: timothy dixon from: usa
November 22, 2012 12:49 PM
The world is headed on a one way no return ticket to all out war the bible is coming to past in record time JESUS said lest I shorten the days there would be no flesh standing this is a shame but when greed the fruits of flesh lead the way there can no hope come from man there is not one man on earth that is righteous no not one i pray for CHINA and all of ASIA let there be a great revival LORD that your name be lifted up for we are in true need of you for all you have done keep a hedge around the Innocent GOD BLESS

by: Anonymous from: Philippines
November 21, 2012 11:14 AM
Good job by Pres. Aquino III in asserting our sovereignity. For the record, Panatag Shoal/Reef (Scarborough Shoal/Reef) is not an island (duh). those uninhabitable rocks lie within our EEZ. the Philippines is clearly in the right.

SCS always had territories with multiple claimants, but is handled peacefully through discourse. I can clearly recall - there was peace until China.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Philippines
November 24, 2012 3:17 AM
China is a signatory of UNCLOS and COC, and it now wants to use "history facts" to claim territory. And the so-called nine dash line looks provocative enough that no one will ever side on China.
In Response

by: Sun from: Taipei
November 21, 2012 10:26 PM
@爱中国. You must learn genuine history of China. In 1644, Han-tribe Ming was conquered by Qing. So, current CCP (Han-tribe) does not have any right to claim to South China Sea islands. These islands belong to other countries such as Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, and the like. China must obey International laws ---That is the justice. Taiwanese are not the same as Chinese in Mainland!
In Response

by: 爱中国
November 21, 2012 4:16 PM
Panatag Shoal/Reef (Scarborough Shoal/Reef) may lies in your EEZ , however, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea only valid from 1982, but the reef was in Chins's territory from 1500s.

by: mhey from: Philippines
November 21, 2012 3:26 AM
I think if all these ASEAN claimants will unite,this China's puppet Cambodian leader has nothing to do in blocking the issue.

by: clueless
November 20, 2012 10:51 PM
Any countries who think by internationalizing an issue will solve it, will actually make it worse. Forcing an issue on another party will not lead to any productive discussion. Even if the entire SEA countries insist on certain agenda, China can just refuse to participate or just walk out, which make the matter worse. Smile.
In Response

by: kingkong
November 21, 2012 8:50 PM
"internationalizing" doesn't mean discussion with all claimants. It means going to international arbitration like International court of justice and International tribunal of the law of the sea!

by: Sun from: Taipei
November 20, 2012 10:28 PM
China must obey the declaration of conduct over disputed islands. Otherwise, China will be besieged by all other South East Asian countries and other major countries such as Japan, India, and Australia. Chinese current policy to lob other countries of their inherent territories and natural resources cannot be allowed by any other countries.
In Response

by: 爱中国 from: Canada
November 21, 2012 4:11 PM
what Taiwan claims is exactly same as China claims because it is China's territory, China doesn't want other countries land but we can't afford to maintain peace by losing our terriitory.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
November 21, 2012 11:57 AM
@Sun from Taipei. shame on you, Taiwan claims the whole south China sea and Diaoyu island too. There is no difference between China's claim and Taiwan's claim, because we are the same.

by: Aliamaba from: usa
November 20, 2012 2:39 PM
THAI' Leader remain on number 1 beautiful world leaders

by: L A Read from: California
November 20, 2012 1:58 PM
Here's the solution: Give one-quarter to each of the countries for 25 years, or a pre-determined time frame, then they swap their respective territories, either by lottery or some other treaty agreement.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs