News / Asia

Delays, Disputes Beset ASEAN Resolution of South China Seas

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, left, talks with ASEAN's Deputy Secretary-General Nyan Lynn, right, before the ASEAN-Russia Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 11, 2012. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, left, talks with ASEAN's Deputy Secretary-General Nyan Lynn, right, before the ASEAN-Russia Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 11, 2012.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, left, talks with ASEAN's Deputy Secretary-General Nyan Lynn, right, before the ASEAN-Russia Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 11, 2012.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, left, talks with ASEAN's Deputy Secretary-General Nyan Lynn, right, before the ASEAN-Russia Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 11, 2012.
Irwin Loy
PHNOM PENH — Senior ministers from Southeast Asia continue to push forward on delicate negotiations on the South China Sea during this week's high-level regional meetings in Cambodia. But delegates to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministers' meetings on Wednesday appeared to reach a stumbling block. 

Delegates have publicly downplayed tensions about the South China Sea dispute. But officials acknowledged Wednesday there was disagreement from some members over the wording of a joint ASEAN statement on the issue.

Marty Natalegawa is Indonesia's foreign minister.

"At the same time there is a parallel process - parallel and yet interlinked - on how to capture ASEAN’s views on the recent developments in the South China Sea. The recent worrying developments in the South China Sea," he said.

ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia all claim parts of the South China Sea. This puts them at odds with China, which also claims a large swath of the body of water.

Standoffs in the area in recent months, including an April incident between a Philippines warship and Chinese vessels, have added a sense of urgency to this week's negotiations.

Any joint statement must reflect this, but also move the countries forward, said

"We simply, we need to capture how we feel in terms of what the situation has been in the past, but more importantly to more forward. It’s very important for us to express our concern with what had happened, whether it be at the shoals, whether it be at the continental shelves ..., but more importantly than simply responding to the past is to move forward to ensure that these kinds of events no longer recur," he said.

The debate coming into this week's meetings was how ASEAN members would go about presenting a united approach to negotiations on a long awaited Code of Conduct with China.  ASEAN ministers announced this week they had moved forward with "key elements" of a code of conduct, yet even this appears unlikely to satisfy all parties.

The Philippines for example, has long insisted on including a dispute mechanism within the code. China, on the other hand, has made it clear that it wants to settle territorial disagreements on a one-on-one basis.

Hammering out a code of conduct may reaffirm each party's ultimate goal of cooling down tensions and avoiding armed conflict. But whether it represents a long-term solution to the disagreements is questionable.

Still, ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said bloc members realize how important it is to resolve the maritime dispute while it's in the public eye.

"Issues of South China Sea is certainly one issue that I think they want to explore further," he said. "The issues and the ways in which to handle because the world is paying attention to us, because the world is expecting some soothing message, message of confidence, message of hope out of here that we are indeed working together in order to manage the situation. So I think in good faith, in good will, we want to be better prepared."
The ASEAN meetings reach a peak with Thursday's ASEAN Regional Forum, which will include senior delegates from the bloc's many dialogue partners, including the United States.

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Comment Sorting
by: Sarah from: Florida
July 11, 2012 4:14 PM
Hopefully they go to every extent to avoid armed conflict. I wonder if countries will ever be able to solve their disputes online through a site like It would save a lot of money for these countries.
In Response

by: Nantasarn Seesalab from: Bangkok,Thailand
July 12, 2012 11:23 PM
After Secretary of Sate and Foreign Minister of China meeting, it can be said that the issue of the South China Sea can be eased through participation of the USA and China based on the ASEAN Code of Conduct. It is difficult to solve the conflict on bilateral basis as proposed by China due to a number of conflicting partners.
In Response

by: hyoae from: Wu
July 12, 2012 2:08 AM
The name is South China Sea. It is can be believed that this part really belongs to China in ancient. Otherwise, why this part this sea is named South China Sea.
In Response

by: @ Sarah
July 11, 2012 7:34 PM
Chinese solves their disputes by guns only, not chatting on line.

by: Anonymous
July 11, 2012 3:58 PM
The bad guys (China) have big guns, the good guys (ASEAN) have big mouths. What can we expect ??? The robbers try to rob, the victims try not to give up , not even an inch of land and sea. What can we expect ??? South China Sea may become a new killing field.
In Response

by: Nam from: Vietnam
July 12, 2012 4:27 AM
Let's GO. Animals. Please DO NOT USE your words to threathen weak people

by: Hilaily from: Sanghai
July 11, 2012 1:59 PM
Vietnamese communist, don't mislead the world, you Vietnamese as a stateless, all your land is robbed from Champa, Cambodia or Khmer Krom. You communist Vietnam, very fast to forget the history that We China used to and will crash you under our yoke again if you want a fight.
In Response

by: remie from: canada
July 12, 2012 8:03 AM
@Hillaily,Yes vietnam did take some land from Cambodia and acknowledge it in their history. But u Chinese take land from India, Vietnam, Laos, Tibet, etc... and lie in ur history and say it is yours from beginning. Ur History is fake and lie about winning wars. Bring on fight and we will see 1.3 billion weak crumble like real history says.
In Response

by: Hoang from: Canada
July 12, 2012 6:41 AM
If war results, it is China who will suffers most.
Both Vietnamese and Chinese Communists are robbers.
Vietnam liberated Cambodia from genocide Kmer Rouge and presently does not occupy Cambodia. China has been robbing Vietnamese territories for centuries. Resolve South China Sea through international court. There is ample evidence Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa(Spratly) islands belong to Vietnam. China robbed them from Vietnam in 1974 and 1988.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Yiwu
July 11, 2012 9:04 PM
Vietnam———A country that has lost history totally!
In Response

by: Eyesonu from: New Planet
July 11, 2012 8:19 PM
I strongly agree with you 100% Hallay. Vietnamese communist has a piece of land called Hanoi (known as Dai Viet). The rest used to be long to the Cambodia and Champa. So, Vietnamese communist must be out...!

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