ASEAN statement to go easy on Beijing over South China Sea dispute

Chinese structures are pictured at the disputed Spratlys in South China Sea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

By Manuel Mogato | MANILA Wed Apr 26, 2017 | 12:54am EDT

Southeast Asian nations would adopt a softer than usual tone about South China Sea disputes at a leaders’ summit on Saturday in Manila, and exclude references to militarization or island-building, according to a draft of the chairman’s statement.

Although some Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders will express “serious concern” over the “escalation of activities” in the disputed sea, ASEAN will drop references, or even allusions, to China’s construction of artificial islands and the military hardware it has placed on them, according excerpts of the draft seen by Reuters.

The statement would be a watered-down version of that issued last year and comes amid a charm offensive by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who takes the rotating ASEAN chair this year, to court China for its business and avoid rows over sovereignty in the South China Sea.

However, a diplomat from the ASEAN secretariat told Reuters, that officials were still working on the draft of the statement and “it may still change” before it is issued at the end of the summit on Saturday.

China claims almost entire South China Sea where about $5 trillion worth of sea-borne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims on the strategic waterway.

ASEAN references to the South China Sea issue typically do not name China, which has been expanding its seven manmade islands in the Spratlys, including with hangers, runways, radars and surface-to-air missiles.

Last year’s ASEAN statement in Laos emphasized the importance of “non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities, including land reclamation”.

According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, China will soon be capable of deploying fighter jets on three of its reefs. China insists its activities are for defense purposes and are taking place in what it considers its sovereign waters.

The Philippines irked China two months ago when its then foreign minister, Perfecto Yasay, said he and ASEAN counterparts had noticed “very unsettlingly” that weapons systems had been installed, and considered that “a militarization of the region”.

The foreign minister of the former administration, Alberto del Rosario, on Tuesday said the Philippines’ hosting of ASEAN summit was an opportunity for Duterte to raise China’s militarization.

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“We should utilize our leadership to be able to uphold the rule of law,” he said. “The leadership of the Philippines will lose a lot of influence if we pass up that opportunity.”

A former government official involved in foreign policy likened the Philippines to Cambodia, which has been accused of taking China’s side and serving as a de facto veto against consensus ASEAN decisions that would otherwise be unfavorable to Beijing.

“Everyone is now watching the Philippines, we expect China to send its message to Southeast Asian countries through Duterte,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

“We are now acting like China’s lackey.”

(Editing by Martin Petty and Michael Perry)

Source: Reuters “ASEAN statement to go easy on Beijing over South China Sea dispute”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


One Comment on “ASEAN statement to go easy on Beijing over South China Sea dispute”

  1. Eastern Looking Glass says:


    China is at war defending itself from the predatory and warmongering U.S. who had, together with its colonial European and Japanese sidekicks, been strutting and swaggering around East Asia like an imperial overlord removing rulers and regimes at their whims and fancies for the last two hundred years. ASEAN countries, if they know the history of their fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers, should recall that.

    And in a war, he, who occupies the high ground has a better chance of success in defending its territories or thwarting the predatory enemy from further encroaching on their territories. The islands and reefs in the Spratlys and Paracels represents Chinese “high grounds” and well Washington and Pentagon knows it too. Hence the commotion instigated by Washington in its fake news mass medias over islands located in a quiet place disturbing and dislocating no one.

    Amerika needs unimpeded access to patrol and threaten China and other East Asian countries from this “high ground” whether above the sea or under the sea. But with the Chinese islands providing early detection and monitoring systems, including offering a base for Chinese warships, warplanes, and submarines, the aggressive Amerikans unquestioned and rivalled access is now at stake. It can no longer “patrol” and threaten China as though the seas off China were their security perimeters. Much like prison guards garrisoning the prison’s walls against any atempt at freedom by the inmates.

    And ASEAN would have none of this. As logic dictates, they have however, to first unite to get rid of a common alien enemy that is Amerika. And Beijing and China is at the vanguard if not forefront of this “battle”. Thus the need not to weaken the ground on which Beijiing and China is making a stand against the war mongering colonialist Amerika.

    This is the 21st century. Freedom, independence and sovereignty are not saleable items. Washington and other like minded imperialists – like India – would do wise to stand down and return all the annexed or vassalized countries to the people of those countries. A new world order is in the offing. But NOT in the manner Washington and the Bilderberg group views it.