News / Asia

China Might be Moving Closer to ASEAN on South China Sea

 A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea. A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea.
x
 A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea.
A Chinese warship launches a missile during a live-ammunition military drill held last year in the South China Sea.
— China's new leaders may be moving closer to resolving disputes over the South China Sea through a regional alliance rather than through separate negotiations with each of its territorial rivals.

This week's summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations showed again the scale of sensitivities over the South China Sea with the Philippines objecting to a draft statement saying all sides agreed not to internationalize the maritime dispute.

China has consistently opposed ASEAN's involvement in rival claims over the South China Sea that involve Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Following the summit in Cambodia, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang said an ASEAN Declaration of Conduct over the dispute - or DOC - could help ease tensions.

"China will continue to come back [with] sincere dialogue with ASEAN countries and to fully implement in an effective way the DOC so that all parties can accumulate mutual trust and carry on cooperation and put this issue of South China Sea in good control so that we can work together to safeguard peace, stability, cooperation, and development," said Gang.

That Declaration of Conduct includes all parties exercising self-restraint by not inhabiting any of the currently uninhabited islands in dispute in the oil-rich sea.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa says talks are already underway to keep alive Chinese/ASEAN cooperation on the issue.

"The key challenge, of course, now is we must ensure that the situation, on the ground or at sea, does not become not conducive so we must contain a conducive atmosphere so negotiation and dialogue can begin to take place," said Natalegawa.

So why might China's new leaders be more willing to consider ASEAN's role in the dispute?

Professor Xiang Lanxin chairs international affairs studies at Shanghai's Fudan University. He says Beijing's outgoing leaders miscalculated how Southeast Asian neighbors would respond to broader Chinese territorial claims.

"They did make huge strategic mistakes. I am talking about diplomatic mistakes. One is the assertion of core interests that cover the South China Sea," said Lanxin.

He says that led to the mistaken impression in Washington and Hanoi and Manila that Beijing intended to claim all of the South China Sea for itself.

"This is an indication of Chinese great ambition of taking over the South China Sea. That's not the Chinese plan. It is a mistake," he said.

He expects China's new leaders will appeal less to nationalism over the South China Sea, moving away from a narrative that focused on the United States as a declining power trying to maintain its status by repositioning diplomatic, military, and commercial assets in Asia.

"Our leaders frequently use the same argument - basically it is a social Darwinist argument - to try to sell their version of nationalism. That has been a very, very risky business," he said.

Elizabeth Economy directs Asia studies at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. She says the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, has a choice between a more Deng-Xiaoping-style domestic focus or a more Hu-Jintao assertiveness in regional affairs and the establishment of China as a naval power.

"This more assertive foreign policy, of course, has helped to raise China's profile internationally but at the same time has brought it into conflict with its neighbors such as Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. So the next set of Chinese leaders faces great opportunity in the China that they have inherited but also a set of very distinct challenges," said Economy.

U.S. President Barack Obama raised the South China Sea issue during closed-door sessions of the ASEAN summit.

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan says Southeast Asian nations do not want the maritime dispute to interfere with what he calls "positive momentum" on other issues, and the Declaration of Conduct does not prevent member states from pursuing rival territorial claims through other channels if they like.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
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.

AppleAndroid