News / Asia

ASEAN South China Sea Consensus Elusive

ASEAN Member Nations
ASEAN Member Nations
Simone Orendain
MANILA – Southeast Asian leaders are scrambling to reach consensus on how to handle territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

After disagreement over how to deal with the issue at a summit in Phnom Penh on July 13, where ASEAN leaders failed to release a joint communique for the first time in the group's 45-year history, Indonesia’s foreign minister Marty Natalegawa has circulated a proposal for six principles on resolving disputes in the South China Sea. The principles emphasize implementation of a code of conduct, having self-restraint without the use of force, and the seeking of peaceful resolutions.

“We hope this ASEAN statement on the basic principle will be issued as soon as possible, hopefully by today," said Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Michael Tene, who called it a "stand alone statement on the South China Sea -- ASEAN's basic principles regarding South China Sea issues."

While China and Taiwan claim practically the entire resource-rich sea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have partial claims. Cambodia, which currently chairs the 10-nation bloc, is a close ally of China.

Huang Jing, an Asia security analyst and director of the Center on Asia and Globalization at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, says it is unlikely that any group of ASEAN members would take a strong position on the controversy, which makes the six points effective, explaining that a prolonged rift would only weaken both ASEAN and its individual members.

“A statement like ASEAN’s tells everyone, especially the Chinese, number one, ‘This is our bottom line. We’ve reached a consensus. Don’t step on it.’" he said. "Number two, it prevents the situation from getting worse."

Huang also says disputes with China in particular must be settled through “quiet diplomacy,” and that recent conflicts such as the standoff at Scarborough Shoal -- where Manila accused Beijing of poaching endangered species in its waters -- could have been resolved with a simple bilateral deal that would have allowed China to fish Philippine waters in a supervised and regulated manner.

“But it can only come 20 boats per month, you have to follow our law," he said, emphasizing the notion that specific terms of the agreement would have to be arranged "quietly." "You don’t say [it in] public. Public is bound [for] doom. But in return you let us do our drills, get the gas and oil, [which] we’re going to sell to you anyway.”

Despite a broad preference for multilateral talks among ASEAN member states, he says, Malaysia has handled recent disputes with China in a similarly subtle way.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid