News / Asia

US Portrays ASEAN Meeting as Setback for China

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference concluding his visit to Naypyitaw to participate in the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar,  Aug. 10, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference concluding his visit to Naypyitaw to participate in the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Aug. 10, 2014.

The United States is portraying the outcome of a meeting in Myanmar among Southeast Asian nations as a setback for Beijing's attempts to minimize territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

There is no specific mention of China in the final statement by the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), although the group, in its meetings over the last several days in Myanmar's capital, did consider a freeze on “provocative acts” in the South China Sea.

That pact was proposed by Washington and Manila. Despite China's rebuff of the proposal, U.S. officials are characterizing the outcome of the overall meeting as a positive one.

Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Naypyidaw that during all of the relevant talks, he underscored the need for a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea, involving overlapping maritime claims among a number of sovereign states in the region.

“And I'm very pleased that there is positive language that came out in the communiqué issued by ASEAN foreign ministers yesterday as a result of that discussion that embraces this idea of resolving these issues in a thoughtful and peaceful way,” said Kerry.

Kerry declared that the communiqué’s language “goes far enough” despite China's rebuff of the freeze proposal.

The final language in the communiqué states: "We urged all parties concerned to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions which would complicate the situation and undermine peace, stability, and security in the South China Sea."

Although talks have been held on a code of conduct for the sea, there has been little significant progress.

A senior U.S. official has been quoted saying that based on private conversations among diplomats, ASEAN concern over the territorial disputes is at “an all-time high."

The ASEAN Regional Forum security talks involved 27 countries, including Australia, China, India, Japan, Russia and the United States.

China has criticized involvement by the United States in the South China Sea issue, contending Washington is encouraging such countries as the Philippines and Vietnam to be more assertive as part of America's military pivot back to Asia.

China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, who met with Kerry for a half an hour on Saturday, told reporters at the ASEAN gathering that it is premature to move towards settling the territorial dispute based on international law. He accused others of exaggerating the level of tension while also characterizing his country as maintaining restraint in the disputed waters, saying China is being provoked by other countries.

Steve Herman

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

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Comment Sorting
by: william li from: canada
August 11, 2014 2:47 PM
so america is ready to compete China all around the world? last month in south america, yesterday in Africa, and now in south Asia?

lol cant wait to see who s gonna be the winner!

But I am sure, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Burma are waiting for more investment from China, and the building of the high speed train system connecting China.

by: Sochetvitou Tang from: Cambodia
August 11, 2014 11:21 AM
If Asian countries want to have a long lasting peace in the region, first they have cure one of the strange mental disease that many leaders in the region have "THE TERRITORY ADDICTION". If you do not cure your own disease, it is going to be hard to blame China's territory expansion.

by: John Lone from: SD
August 10, 2014 10:39 PM
China is being provoked by other countries? Like setting up oil rig on Vietnamese waters? Illegally fish for endanger turtles on Philiipines waters?

by: joshua medalle from: Philippines
August 10, 2014 10:20 PM
Asean countries involved in china's sea grabbing dispute must stop buying china products. Doing otherwise only encourages china to strengthen its military might to farther threaten weaker countries and grab more of their territories. Chinese state & private companies investments must also be banned in these countries to start isolating the bully and modern nazis from asean countries. If asean was able to survive without china before there is no reason it can not survive now without the chinese nazis.

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
August 10, 2014 8:17 PM
The USA is facing more pressing concerns in Ukraine and the Middle East, yet Secretary Kerry still attended this conference in Burma. To that extent, ASEAN countries except China were impressed that USA took the South Sea dispute seriously. However, it would still be too early to say that this meeting marks a set-back for China.

by: meanbill from: USA
August 10, 2014 6:44 PM
THE WISE MAN said it;.... Only Kerry and the US would try to claim some type of political victory over meaningless (ASEAN) discussions on China's assertive actions in the South China Sea, that were just talks and observations, without any (ASEAN) country condemnations of China, or anything else.... (a setback for China?)..... REALLY?

China reiterated to Kerry, they will not discus internal affairs or politics with outside countries, and safeguarding China's sovereignty and maritime rights and interests is unshakable, and will defend China's unequivocally rights to it's (ADIZ) and every single sovereign inch of air, sea and land, of the motherland.... "no compromise and no concessions"...... (But will hold discussions on other things?)
In Response

by: Tuan from: VN
August 11, 2014 3:10 AM
Are you realy living in America? I think you should go back and live in China.

by: Tun Lwin from: Yangon
August 10, 2014 5:13 PM
Thein Sein is a defender of the former military gov. He is not a man who can change for Myanmar.

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