News / Asia

ASEAN Struggles with S. China Sea Dispute

x
Sara Schonhardt
JAKARTA — The secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) says the group needs more cohesion, but will not be held hostage to outside pressure or internal disagreements over the disputed South China Sea.  ASEAN is struggling to dispel concerns about divisions among member states, after a chaotic annual gathering in Cambodia failed to produce an agreement governing actions in the South China Sea.  

Four the of 10 ASEAN members - Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei - claim parts of those waters, which hold vast fisheries, provide vital shipping lanes for trade and are said to be rich in oil.  But China also says it has sovereignty over nearly the entire area.

The summit earlier this month was expected to help ASEAN achieve a higher profile and cement confidence, but it revealed ongoing disunity among a bloc whose relevance has been questioned by many foreign-affairs observers.

Wednesday, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan acknowledged the group's shortcomings and said it needs to be more agile and effective when dealing with outside powers.  "Our member states will have to survey the landscape and the terrain and the waters very carefully, what could be an issue of controversy, so that we will be able to either avoid them or minimize the impact," said Pitsuwan.

A report released Tuesday by the International Crisis Group says ASEAN's ineffectiveness in resolving the dispute and more aggressive actions by countries claiming sovereignty over parts of the sea raised concerns the region's biggest potential military flashpoint could escalate into armed conflict.

"You have got levels of trust diminishing, but then possible diplomatic options for trying to lessen those tensions are not working very well right now," said analyst Bryony Lau of the Crisis Group in Jakarta.

The Crisis Group report says China is working to exploit divisions among ASEAN members by offering preferential treatment to those that do not side with its rival claimants.

South China Sea Dispute Map
South China Sea Dispute Map


Vietnam raised the issue of the South China Sea in ASEAN's 2010 regional forum.  In 2011 the Philippines took it up with even more fervor.  Lau says that created internal tensions that played on already existent divisions.

"The fact that there are states within ASEAN that have very different interests, have very different priorities, have different relationships with the United States and China, all of those are elements [that] come into play when it comes to ASEAN's capacity to deal with the South China Sea," added Lau.

A six-point declaration drafted by Indonesia on how ASEAN would move forward on the code of conduct on the South China Sea has provided some reassurance, but continued provocations from China have done little to downplay tensions.

China said Sunday it had established a new municipality on a sparsely populated islet it calls Sansha and would deploy a garrison of soldiers to guard the islands it claims.  Vietnam, which says the islet is part of its territory, called the move a "serious violation" of its sovereignty.  The Philippines has also responded to recent aggressions by calling for strong resolve against Chinese rhetoric.

There are fears ASEAN could be in danger of cracking under China's growing influence in the region.  Some also worry that its role in the region poses direct challenges to the United States, which has close relations with some ASEAN members, including the Philippines.

ASEAN has grown in size and economic importance in recent years and is on its way to creating an ASEAN economic community by 2015.  But Secretary-General Pitsuwan said the impasse over the South China Sea would not have a material impact on economic integration.

"We are going full steam toward our economic activities, our economic integration," Pitsuwan noted.  "It will have some psychological impact on the external partners, but as far as ASEAN is concerned, I think our vibrant economy, it is not going to be held hostage to the issue of the disagreement or the controversy of the South China Sea."

Despite the reassurance, analysts say ASEAN needs to make progress on the code of conduct to ensure that the South China Sea does not stoke further divisions and to prevent the dispute from becoming a U.S.-China issue.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: mark from: sydney
July 27, 2012 10:23 AM
The Chinese Government is a profound threat to world peace and stability: they invaded Tibet and murdered over 1 million tibetans in the process; they trained and armed the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia leading to the systematic extermination of a huge part of the population; they actively support North korea and the instability there; they pursue aggressive territorial claims against Japan; they have intitiated multiple border wars with India, Vietnam, and Russia; and now they claim almost the entire South China Sea. One only needs to review one of the published maps showing their claim to arrive at the view that their claim is absurd, illegal, and nothing more than theft and thuggery. The Chinese have absolute contempt for international law, and anyone else. The only language the Chinese understand is the barrel of a gun!


by: Charlie from: UK
July 26, 2012 6:10 PM
I wonder why the Chinese have acted so amicably and patiently towards the Russians when their coast guards fired at one Chinese fishing vessel,causing the loss of one crew member who fell overboard.The Chinese said the Russians have overreacted and the 2 countries should work closely together to avoid future recurrence.Were the Chinese that civilised and tactful when they attacked and killed Vietnamese fishermen in Vietnamese waters which they claim theirs? What happened shows China's double standards.They would back down and bow to someone stronger and bully the weaker ones like Vietnam and the Philippines.The Chinese are just biding their time.When their navy gets mightier,their ships would flock to East Japan Sea,to assert their sovereignty,as they did on Scarborough Shoal and Spratlys recently.Well done China for a great diplomatic move!


by: X
July 26, 2012 9:58 AM
Cambodia is once again China's lapdog.It was China's dog during the Khmer Rouge era, and China dog's now. Nothing has changed. Something need to be done about this.


by: Quang Nguyen from: USA
July 26, 2012 3:09 AM
China now wants all the entire South China Sea for itself, as the first step to enlarge its empire. But, no other country, except Cambodia, would let it happen. Even if the present top Vietnamese Communist leaders voluntarily accept Vietnam to become the fifth little star on the Chinese flag, the Vietnamese people as well as most world superpowers would not let happen. China is not ready to challenge the military supremacy of the US, not to mention its allies. Even Russia is against this aggressive move of China.


by: Dennis from: Philippines
July 26, 2012 2:47 AM
We are ready for armed conflict. Lets just start shooting and get it over with, shall we? The Philippines is not exactly the poor and weak nation you are made to believe. And its ready to take on the small eyed bully who cannot see its litany of strategic weaknesses.


by: Frank from: Japan
July 25, 2012 10:02 PM
The old map of China country which was published in 1904 and republished in 1010 in Shanghai draws only HaiNam be its farthest island in the South, does not include Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Paracle and Spratly) islands. The first Chinese flag on these island was put in 1909 from where they showed their ambition of invasion. Chinese ancestors confirmed their country boundary by such legal document, why their descendents do such provoking actions!!!


by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
July 25, 2012 7:29 PM
ROC(Taiwan) first claim the authority of south china sea in 1932 and published the official map. ROC then built many concrete monuments on major islands which were illegally destroyed by Viets and Finols. But democratic Taiwan is still the first to administrative south china sea and keep a military base on Taiping island. South China sea belongs to China without doubt. Go check Wikipedia for proves!

In Response

by: Phuc from: Viet nam
July 26, 2012 12:01 AM
u think Wikipedia right ??? u think information on the internet right ??? U think your govement right ???
U said China has much more basises and proofs than my country,if u and your country confident , why China isn't willing to let United Nations solve this disputes ??? while China is a big country.

In Response

by: Frank from: Japan
July 25, 2012 10:19 PM
Let I told you more exact information. The first Chinese flag was put on these islands in 1909. Earlier than your news. Another thing is the older Chinese map which was published in 1904 and republished in 1910 in Shanghai draws Chinese boundary where its farthest island is Hai Nan, does not include Spratly and paracel islands. In other words, until 1909 Chinese just started to show their ambition of invasion.

In Response

by: Mao T from: USA
July 25, 2012 10:08 PM
Mr. Huang has a baseless evident. If you have proper study in school you have never base your information in Wikipedia. Go back to school and ask your teacher!
The historical evidents, daily commune- activities of Viet fishermen, and best evident of all China has attached South Vietnam Navy in 1974 and occupied those islands since then.

What a bunch of coward to take advantage to a smaller country...


by: Anonymous
July 25, 2012 6:11 PM
China is conquering South East Asia, not with big guns but tons of money.It works !

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid