News / Asia

China Impacts ASEAN Unity on Sea Disputes

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong speaks at the closing ceremony of the 45th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia July 13, 2012.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong speaks at the closing ceremony of the 45th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia July 13, 2012.
Analysts say continued efforts to unify Southeast Asian nations on the issue of territorial disputes in the South China Sea are being complicated by Beijing's rising influence in the region.

ASEAN, a bloc of 10 Southeast Asian nations, for the first time in its 45 year history failed to produce a joint statement at a regional summit in Cambodia last week, revealing a deep rift over the issue.

The discord was widely attributed to political pressure from China, which would rather deal separately with the five nations with which it has maritime disputes, rather than confront ASEAN as whole.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa is on an emergency tour of Southeast Asia, a trip he describes as an attempt to "restore ASEAN cohesion and unity on the South China Sea." Speaking in Cambodia Thursday, he said some progress is being made.

"ASEAN centrality requires - demands - ASEAN unity. And the fact is, despite suggestions to the contrary, in actual fact, ASEAN remains united, ASEAN remains cohesive. And therefore, ASEAN remains able to fulfill its role as in the central and driving seat of our region," said Marty Natalegawa.

x
But many say unity is not likely to be achieved with China continuing to exert enormous political pressure on nations like Cambodia, which rely on Beijing for billions of dollars in economic assistance.

Ralph Cossa, a security analyst at the Pacific Forum in Hawaii, says such pressure could eventually work against China. 

"I think China wants ASEAN to not unite," he said. "But I don't think China wanted to see it go to the extreme that it did, where essentially now the spotlight is shining on China's bullying of Cambodia and some of the weaker ASEAN countries."

Many ASEAN members blame Cambodia, currently the bloc's chair, for giving into Chinese pressure by rejecting a proposal by the Philippines and Vietnam to mention their territorial disputes with China in the group statement.

Phat Kosal, an Asia researcher at the University of Southern California, says Vietnam is upset that Cambodia chose to side with China, breaking their traditional alliance.

"I think there must be some kind of resentment [on behalf of Vietnam], but not to the level that there is a split in the future because Vietnam knows that Cambodia cannot do much as it is so much under China's pressure. Cambodia needs assistance to develop its economy," said Phat Kosal.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, says it is clear that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, in siding with China over Vietnam, is not putting his country's interest first.

"Hun Sen is showing that he is going to make alliances with the people he thinks serve his interest the best," he said. "I don't think he makes alliances thinking that they serve the country's interest the best. I think it's almost always about what serves his political interest and personal interest the best."

Observers say short-term attempts to build regional consensus on the South China Sea may ultimately prove futile, even during the next ASEAN summit in November.

But the issue is likely to return to ASEAN's agenda next year, when Brunei - a claimant in the South China Sea - takes its turn as the rotating head of the regional bloc.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Vietnamese American from: California, US
July 28, 2012 10:17 PM
China is using the Divide-and-conquer method to swallow South East Asia. The Chinese gov is bribing the Cambodian officers to stir the pot. One day the chinese gov will invade Cambodia as well. Wake up before it is not too late, Cambodian!

by: Anonymous
July 21, 2012 7:59 PM
The latest news coming out 7/20/12 is they now hace a communique without demands from VN and Phil.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 22, 2012 11:43 AM
New communique sastified all Chinese demands, ASEAN got nothing because they could do nothing.

by: reiner from: Shanghai
July 20, 2012 8:12 PM
We all know all South China Sea were peaceful until US decided to "return", for sake of its geopolitical agenda.
In Response

by: jundemar from: philippines
August 02, 2012 2:01 PM
China's 9 dash line is hallucination, if china based its claimed on their ancient maps(disputed) ,says that china is owned the west Philippine sea, i thing it also time to raise the italy to claim europe because it once become part of roman empire or macedonia to the middle east being conquered by alexander the great, today claims based on ancient time is no longer valid, the present based for claim is the UNCLOS which china sign in 1982, if they not respect that law , its better to expel them from UN. (OUT CHINA IN WEST PHILIPPINE SEA!)
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 22, 2012 9:42 AM
Started with blood in 1974 and more blood in 1988. That was peace (?) China has brought to South China Sea.

by: Hoang from: Canada
July 20, 2012 12:07 PM
To Levis,
After freeing Cambodia from Kmer Rouge genocide, Vietnam left Cambodia. Cambodia is now an independent country. Without vietnam to stop China, all of South east asia including Cambodia will be part of China and China will claim South East Asian Countries belong to China since ancient times. Look at Tibet and think for yourself.





In Response

by: Vietnamese American from: California
July 28, 2012 10:26 PM
To Hoang,

You are so right!
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 20, 2012 2:33 PM
No doubt, Tibet is in China's domain. You only hear about speech of Dalai Lama but don't know much about Chinese history.

by: NGUYEN HUE from: Viet Nam
July 20, 2012 5:13 AM
ASEAN nations should expel Cambodia from ASEAN because of its betrayal. Cambodia should apply to China for being accepted as a Chinese province.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 20, 2012 10:47 AM
Hanoi acted exactly same way in 2010 as Cambodia did in 2012. Both these crooks worked well for China.

by: Igor the Great from: Russia
July 19, 2012 11:48 PM
The Khmer Rouge's Great Teacher, the PRC, taught that regime how to genocide 2.2 million Cambodians. It was Vietnam who liberated Cambodian people from The Khmer Rouge regime. Now the Cambodian government has decided to bite the hand that fed to receive China's money. Some of Asean members must remember that they are too small and need to be united. Otherwise, they will be swallowed by China one by one. In history, China has never given something free of charge to any country. It gives you one and will receive ten from you. How stupid the Cambodian regime is!

by: Anonymous
July 19, 2012 2:58 PM
ASEAN is a bunch of crooks. China knew that and bought them all.
Done deal !

by: Tee
July 19, 2012 1:53 PM
As a Cambodian I don't think this kOSAL guy knows what the fuck he's talking about! There are no such thing as vietnam and cambodian friendship??? The viet pest tried to take over cambodia a long long time ago! Good thing Cambodia have a friend like China to keep them in check! I'm happy to see China nuke the crap out of this viet country!!!
In Response

by: Levis from: Solomon
July 19, 2012 11:32 PM
VN invaded Cambodia and just recently the latter has to give two more villages to VN as for compensation. So Hoang, do you think VN is good to Cambodia? Not yet saying that many VN people come and live in Cambodia from generation to generation so that in the future they will be considered as the locals, there.
In Response

by: Hoang from: Canada
July 19, 2012 4:49 PM
To Tee,
Vietnam should have let Kmer Rouge kill more cambodians in 1979. Without Vietnam, all of South East Asia would fall to China.
China is no friend to any country including Cambodia.

by: pivoting
July 19, 2012 10:34 AM
Hasn't China always been "exerting political pressure" or "acting assertively" with its SCS claims for all these years as the media consistently portrait the country? Then what actually caused the ASEAN to break its 45 years old tradition of issuing a joint communique this time, but not last year, or the years before that?

It got to be something significant happened right in this year that rattled the balancing mechanism which held the ASEAN members together previously. There is indeed an important word in Mechanics, called pivot.

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
July 19, 2012 10:10 AM
Sorry, Cambodia gets benefits instead of pressure from China. China is bigger than ASEAN add up together. Choose siding with China is wise, and more and more countries will make the same choice soon especially those countries have no territory dispute with china. World economy is downing China is your only salvation.
In Response

by: Vietnamese American from: California
July 28, 2012 10:23 PM
What was happening when the American battle ships came to South east Asia? Chinese gov acts like a chicken!
Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs