News / Asia

S. China Sea Disputes Figure Prominently at ASEAN Meeting

Territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Territorial claims in the South China Sea.
VOA News
Observers say territorial disputes in the South China Sea will likely be a main focus at an upcoming meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But they expect progress to be slow on a long-delayed code of conduct between the regional bloc and China.

Disagreements over the maritime disputes, which pit China against several of its southeast Asian neighbors, prevented ASEAN from publishing a joint statement after a July summit in Cambodia for the first time in its history. The impasse was widely attributed to pressure from Beijing.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said last week "good signs" were emerging from ongoing talks between China and the regional bloc on how to draft a code of conduct to resolve the issue. Although he expects nothing will be finalized before the November 15 ASEAN and East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, he said he looks forward to what he called a "candid" discussion on the South China Sea at the meeting.

Ernie Bower, senior adviser and chair for Southeast Asia Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agrees there is little chance a code of conduct will be signed at the November conference. But he said he expects China to take a less aggressive approach during the summit.

"I don't think they'll push Cambodia as hard," Bower said. "I think the Chinese have realized that their very aggressive approach to ASEAN, trying to manipulate Cambodia, to pull issues like the South China Sea out of the discussion is not going to be useful."

Many ASEAN members blame Cambodia, currently the bloc's chair, for giving in to Chinese pressure in July by rejecting a proposal to mention territorial disputes with Beijing in the proposed group statement.

Bower said all sides must realize that if ASEAN cannot discuss, or even mention, the most important regional security issues of the day, it will not have very much value as a regional body.

"The concept that we can't talk about, or we don't put on the record a discussion of the South China Sea -- that thinking is really outdated," said Bower. "This sort of [mindset] -- hide the important issue, don't talk about it -- that's not the way governance works in the modern world, and that's not the way the China-ASEAN relationship would prosper."

Carl Thayer, a specialist on Southeast Asian affairs at the University of New South Wales, said that Cambodia is more likely to be compelled to discuss South China Sea security because of the heavyweights attending the summit.

"I don't think that Cambodia's [Prime Minister] Hun Sen could stand up to a [President] Barack Obama or a Japanese prime minister if they insisted on discussing the South China Sea," said Thayer. "Earlier this year, I think the ASEAN foreign ministers were very respectful of the position of chair, they intervened in private, but let the matter go publicly. I don't think that would happen at the East Asia Summit."

But Thayer addded the United States and its regional allies will likely be cautious in confronting China over the issue.

"They do not want to raise the issue by putting China in the dock," he said. "They're really trying to encourage a process where force and intimidation isn't used, where the players get back on the same international law music sheet and try to apply that law to the dispute."

Thayer said it may be politically advantageous for China to make some progress on the maritime disputes in the near future. But he warned not much may be known about China's willingness to resolve the issue until the completion of a months-long leadership transition that begins this week in Beijing.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid