News / Asia

ASEAN Members Fail to Draft South China Sea Statement

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, center, and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba shake hands before their trilateral meeting during the ASEAN Regional forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, JuU.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, center, and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba shake hands before their trilateral meeting during the ASEAN Regional forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Ju
x
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, center, and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba shake hands before their trilateral meeting during the ASEAN Regional forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Ju
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, center, and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba shake hands before their trilateral meeting during the ASEAN Regional forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Ju
Irwin Loy
PHNOM PENH — Southeast Asian ministers have failed to reach a common position on the maritime dispute involving the South China Sea. Senior officials emerged from a forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, unable to reach their goal of hammering out a joint statement representing the members’ views on the issue.

ASEAN foreign ministers have been attempting all week to craft a statement summarizing its members' position on territorial disputes in the South China Sea. But when senior ministers emerged from the Asean Regional Forum Thursday - the pinnacle of this week’s meetings - disappointment was evident.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said it was “irresponsible” that ASEAN nations have not come up with a common statement.

“Whenever there are incidents, that’s actually the moment that we should reinforce our efforts, not be grinding to a halt," said Natalegawa. "This time last year we had a similar problem between Cambodia and Thailand - it was a more direct intra-ASEAN conflict, but it was not impossible to find a solution within ASEAN. And in this instance it’s, I find it perplexing, and to be candid and honest, really, really disappointing.”

Four ASEAN members - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam - claim overlapping parts of the South China Sea. China claims almost all of the sea and there have been frequent confrontations over the region. A decade ago, ASEAN and China agreed to work together to develop a code of conduct of operations in the sea. But China wants to settle territorial disputes with individual nations, not the bloc as a whole.

Earlier this week, ASEAN members said they had agreed in principle on “key elements” of a code, and would approach China about opening negotiations.  

Late Thursday, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan indicated there is a chance of some sort of agreement on a statement by the end of the week. He downplayed the setback.

“But I think all the dialogue partners, all the major powers are still supporting and expecting ASEAN to take the leading role," said Pitsuwan. "In that sense I think they will have to give the space for ASEAN to move in the direction of constructive and positive and contributing to the process. This time it’s a hiccup within the ASEAN group. We could not find one common position on just one issue. The rest is O.K.”

Coming into this week’s meetings, analysts predicted tensions about the South China Sea would form a major part of discussions here.

This week also saw a dispute emerge beyond ASEAN’s boundaries. Japan lodged a formal protest with China, after Chinese vessels approached a group of small islands that Japan controls, but China claims.

This week’s meetings conclude on Friday.  A leaders’ summit is scheduled for November.
  • Israel's President Shimon Peres, right, walks U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to her car following their meeting in Jerusalem, July 16, 2012.
  • Egypt's Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi walks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Ministry of Defense, Cairo, Egypt, July 15, 2012.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, center, and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba shake handsduring the ASEAN Regional forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 12, 2012.
  • Clinton, center, watches an exhibition of artificial limbs on her tour at the Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise Center (COPE), in Vientiane, Laos, July 11.
  • U.S. Embassy Staff wait to meet Secretary Clinton at a hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, July 11.
  • Clinton places flowers at a statue as she toured the Ho Phra Keo Temple, in Vientiane, Laos, July 11.
  • Secretary Clinton and General Secretary of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong meet at the Communist Party Headquarters on July 10 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
  • Clinton, right, under a statue of Chenggis Khan during her arrival ceremony at the Parliament House in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 9, 2012.
  • Secretary Clinton and Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, center left, pose before a bilateral meeting in Tokyo, July 8.
  • Clinton walks with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, July 7.
  • French President Francois Hollande and Secretary Clinton following their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 6.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More