Philippines Fails to Get ASEAN Support in Words or US Support in DeedsPosted: July 25, 2016
We have Reuters’ biased report titled “ASEAN breaks deadlock on South China Sea, Beijing thanks Cambodia for support” that tries to make people believe that all ASEAN members support the Philippines in mentioning the Hague arbitration ruling in ASEAN statement but were helpless as they could not overcome the opposition of Cambodia, the only country that takes side with China.
I think no one believes that such a weak and poor member as Cambodia can dominate ASEAN in spite of the opposition of the Philippines that is much larger and richer than Cambodia.
Judging by the statement that ASEAN was finally able to make, it is obvious that ASEAN members have succeeded in persuading the Philippines to withdraw its demand on having the ruling mentioned in their statement.
It is obvious as I pointed in my post “China Makes ASEAN Refrain from Asking It to Respect Arbitration Award” on June 16 that ASEAN withdrew a statement on the meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his ASEAN counterparts as some of the wording in the statement upset China.
I said in the post:
ASEAN’s attitude towards the ruling of Hague arbitration initiated by the Philippines is very important. If ASEAN does not support US demand that China respects the arbitration ruling, US and Western countries’ demand becomes groundless as they are outsiders without a say unless ASEAN in the South China Sea has raised such a demand. That is why Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a meeting with his ASEAN counterparts in China to try to persuade them to refrain from supporting US demand.
Paragraph 7 of the (US-ASEAN) Joint Statement says that ASEAN and US leaders “(s)hared commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes (this blogger’s emphasis), without resorting to the threat or use of force in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)”.
Hague arbitration is certainly a legal process that ASEAN leaders wanted China to fully respect when they met US President Obama in February, but now such demand for full respect cannot be found even in the retracted statement.
In fact, China’s concerns are ASEAN’s stance towards the arbitration ruling. China will be embarrassed if ASEAN supports US demand for China to respect the ruling. All in all, China does not want to be embarrassed. When some media regard the retracted statement as something that embarrassed China, China had the statement retracted and was able to do so.
Now, China is able to make ASEAN refrain from even mentioning the ruling, let alone asking China to respect the ruling. Obviously since Wang Yi told his counterparts that China would fight to protect its rights and interests in his meeting with his ASEAN counterparts in Beijing, ASEAN has retracted the commitment it shared with the US to full respect for Hague arbitration that the US regards as legal processes.
Now, Chinese air force has begun regular combat patrol to deal with provocation. ASEAN members see the danger in taking side with the US in urging China to respect the ruling. They certainly do not want to mention the ruling in their statement. Even the Philippines dare not upset China as it clearly knows that the US will not help it enforce the ruling; therefore, it finally had to agree that the statement does not mention the ruling.
Even the US sees now the danger of military conflict that the arbitration ruling will give rise as even Taiwan has sent its warship to protect its rights and interests in the exclusive economic zone around its Taiping Island that the ruling has denied.
To avoid military conflict, US Secretary of State John Kerry goes to explore diplomatic ways to ease tensions with China over the South China Sea following arbitration ruling that denies China’s claims (see my post “Kerry to urge ASEAN to find diplomatic ways to ease South China Sea tensions” on July 23).
Moreover, I have to point out that Reuters tries to mislead its readers by its allegation that the permanent court of arbitration in The Hague (PCA) is a UN-backed agency. The United Nations has clarified on its Chinese microblog that PCA that ruled against China’s historic claims over the disputed South China Sea was not a UN agency.
However, as I believe that I have to provide readers with full information not only the views I agree but also those I do not agree, I carry the full text of Reuters report below. I always either give my comment first before giving the full text or point out the source of the report or article without giving any comment in order to make clear that the views in the report and article are not mine. However as some readers keep on mistaking the views as mine, I have to make that clear again.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters report, full text of which can be viewed below:
ASEAN breaks deadlock on South China Sea, Beijing thanks Cambodia for support
Southeast Asian nations overcame days of deadlock on Monday when the Philippines dropped a request for their joint statement to mention a landmark legal ruling on the South China Sea, officials said, after objections from Cambodia.
Beijing publicly thanked Cambodia for supporting its stance on maritime disputes, a position which threw the regional block’s weekend meeting in the Laos capital of Vientiane into disarray.
Competing claims with China in the vita shipping are among the most contentious issues for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with its 10 members pulled between their desire to assert their sovereignty while finding common ground and fostering political and commercial ties with Beijing.
China claims most of the sea, but ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have rival claims. In a ruling by the U.N.-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, the Philippines won an emphatic legal victory over China on the dispute.
The Philippines and Vietnam both wanted the ruling, which denied China’s sweeping claims in the strategic seaway that channels more than $5 trillion in global trade each year, and a call to respect international maritime law to feature in the communique.
Calling for bilateral discussions, Cambodia opposed the wording on the ruling, diplomats said.
Manila agreed to drop the reference to the ruling in the communique, one ASEAN diplomat said on Monday, in an effort to prevent the disagreement leading to the group failing to issue a statement.
The communique referred instead to the need to find peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the United Nations’ law of the sea, to which the court ruling referred.
“We remain seriously concerned about recent and ongoing developments and took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region,” the ASEAN communique said.
It was important to avoid militarization of the region, and for freedom of navigation to be maintained, ASEAN said.
Beijing says the court ruling has no bearing on its rights in the sea, and described the case as a farce.
Cambodia’s position was the right one and would safeguard unity of ASEAN and cooperation with China, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon, according to a statement posted on China’s Foreign Ministry website early on Monday.
“China greatly approves of Cambodia and other ASEAN countries taking charge of impartiality and safeguarding fairness,” Wang said.
China frequently blames the United States for raising tensions in the region and has warned regional rival Japan to steer clear of the dispute.
“We will not permit any outside force to seek to exploit and hype up the so-called South China Sea arbitration case and bring chaos to this region,” Wang said.
MAJOR POWERS ARRIVE
The United States, allied with the Philippines and cultivating closer relations with Vietnam, has called on China to respect the court’s ruling.
It has criticized China’s building of artificial islands and facilities in the sea and has sailed warships close to the disputed territory to assert freedom of navigation rights.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Laos’ capital on Monday. He is expected to discuss maritime issues in a meeting with Wang, as well as in meetings with ASEAN members.
Both are in town for the ASEAN regional forum and East Asia summits, which bring ASEAN diplomats together with the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and several other countries.
Kerry will urge ASEAN nations to explore diplomatic ways to ease tension over Asia’s biggest potential military flashpoint, a senior U.S. official said ahead of his trip.
Barack Obama is set to become the first U.S. president to visit Laos, attending an annual summit in September.
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is also in Laos, making her debut at ASEAN meetings as the foreign minister for Myanmar.
(Additional reporting and writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Lincoln Feast)