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that we can't talk about, or we don't put on the record a discussion of the South China Sea -- that thinking is really outdated," said Bower.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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults 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.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid