News / Asia

    ASEAN: No Breakthrough on South China Sea Issue

    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, 5th from left, joins hands with the ASEAN leaders for a group photo before the 16th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - China Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Oct. 9, 2013. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, 5th from left, joins hands with the ASEAN leaders for a group photo before the 16th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - China Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Oct. 9, 2013.
    x
    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, 5th from left, joins hands with the ASEAN leaders for a group photo before the 16th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - China Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Oct. 9, 2013.
    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, 5th from left, joins hands with the ASEAN leaders for a group photo before the 16th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - China Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Oct. 9, 2013.
    With U.S. President Barack Obama absent, Chinese leaders have been able to bask in the spotlight at summits this week in Asia. That allowed them to highlight their stances on contentious issues, especially the territorial dispute involving the South China Sea.

    Obama had been expected at the summits in Brunei to push for a regional maritime code of conduct that could help avert armed clashes in the disputed waters.

    Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
    x
    Click to enlarge
    Click to enlarge
    China lays claim to 80 percent of the South China Sea, overlapping those made by several neighboring countries. And its officials this week have expressed no enthusiasm for outsiders applying pressure regarding the disputes.

    At the 18-nation East Asia Summit China's premier, Li Keqiang met with other regional heads of government and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and called for the talks to focus on areas of cooperation such as economic development and improving people's livelihoods.

    Premier Li said East Asia's significant progress in past years has been achieved because the region has been spared military conflicts “which has allowed the countries in this region to keep their focus on development.”

    The premier asserted that “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been an issue and will never be one.” He also said China will continue to work for progress in consultations with ASEAN members on a code of conduct in the disputed waters “on the basis of consensus building.”

    In other words, China wants to settle the issue country-to-country, not collectively as Washington, Tokyo and some ASEAN members prefer.

    An ASEAN-China joint statement issued Thursday revealed no breakthrough. It merely contains a pledge by the regional body and Beijing to “work towards the conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea on the basis of consensus.”

    Kerry at the East Asia Summit said “a Code of Conduct is a necessity for the long term, but nations can also reduce the risk of miscommunication and miscalculation by taking steps today.” He added that “the rights of all nations, large and small, must be respected.”

    Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also have claims in the sea conflicting with China's.

    The summit's host, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, told reporters at the event's conclusion, there have been “positive developments” recently towards a code of conduct. “ASEAN and China instructed ministers and senior officials to intensify discussions on the proposed CoC [Code of Conduct],” he said.

    Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, which has a separate territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea, told the summit tensions over the South China Sea directly affect regional peace and stability.

    The Japanese leader told reporters he would like to see a code of conduct on the South China Sea between ASEAN and China implemented “soon.”

    The Philippines government is expressing a similar sentiment.

    At the East Asian Summit, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and Vietnam's foreign minister, Pham Binh Minh, signed a so-called 123 accord. If signed by President Obama and subsequently not blocked by the U.S. Congress, the agreement would allow American atomic energy firms into Vietnam in exchange for Hanoi's pledge not to enrich its own uranium.

    A senior U.S. State Department official, speaking on background noted Vietnam "has taken steps towards the development of a robust domestic infrastructure to support its nuclear-power generation program." And that with this agreement "Vietnam has signed on to the strongest global standards of non-proliferation."

    Secretary Kerry, minutes after signing the agreement, told Vietnam's prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, “it would create numerous opportunities for our businesses between our two countries. And obviously our nuclear cooperation is quite significant.”

    Kerry also told the Vietnamese leader that he looked forward to visiting his country “somewhere in the next few months.”

    The U.S. Secretary of State made the remark before heading to Malaysia. However, his Friday visit to Manila has been canceled due to the threat posed by a tropical storm approaching the Philippines.

    Kerry was dispatched to Asia to stand in for President Obama.

    The president pulled out of his trip to the back-to-back regional summits in Indonesia and Brunei, as well as planned visits to Malaysia and Philippines last week because of the U.S. government shutdown.

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora