ASEAN overcomes communique impasse, urges non-militarisation in South China Sea

MANILA (Reuters) – Southeast Asian foreign ministers ended an impasse on Sunday over how to address disputes with China in the South China Sea, issuing a communique that called for militarization to be avoided and noting concern about island-building.

The South China Sea has long been the most divisive issue for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), with China’s influence looming large over its activities. Some countries are wary about the possible repercussions of defying Beijing by taking a stronger stand.

ASEAN failed to issue the customary statement on Saturday, over what diplomats said was disagreement about whether to make oblique references to China’s rapid expansion of its defense capabilities on artificial islands in disputed waters.

China is sensitive to even a veiled reference by ASEAN to its seven reclaimed reefs, three of which have runways, missile batteries, radars and, according to some experts, the capability to accommodate fighter jets.

The communique late on Sunday takes a stronger position than an earlier, unpublished draft, which was a watered-down version of one issued last year in Laos.

The agreed text “emphasized the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint”.

It said that after extensive discussions, concerns were voiced by some members about land reclamation “and activities in the area which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tension and may undermine peace, security and stability”.

ASEAN’s deadlock over the statement highlights China’s growing influence on the grouping at a time of uncertainty over the new U.S. administration’s security priorities and whether it will try to keep China’s maritime activities in check.

Several ASEAN diplomats said that among the members who pushed for a communique that retained the more contentious elements was Vietnam, which has competing claims with China over the Paracel and Spratly archipelago and has had several spats with Beijing over energy concessions.

Another diplomat, however, said there was no real disagreement on the contents of the communique and stressed that the initial draft was seen by some members as weak.

Also on Sunday the foreign ministers of ASEAN and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, a move they hailed as progress but seen by critics as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its maritime power.

Reporting by Martin Petty and Manuel Mogato; Editing by Gareth Jones

Source: Reuters “ASEAN overcomes communique impasse, urges non-militarisation in South China Sea”

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 overcomes communique impasse, urges non-militarisation in South China Sea”

  1. Joseph says:

    It would be hard to urge non-militarization of the SCS since the American keeps beligerently sending military ships to sneak into the SCS for their FONOP. At the same time, the American an their cronies keep pursuing unrelated countries like Japan and India to send warships there too. Anyway, the non-militarization of SCS is unheard of in the ASEAN. Rather than ASEAN ‘agenda’, it is an American agenda who cannot afford to send ships for ‘FONOP’ or much longer. If ASEAN and China is non-militarising the SCS, the American need only to send derelict warships beligerently to the area without opposition. As the USS Fitzgerald incident had proven, it will pose more danger to shipping lane as American ships are not equipped with identification beacons. Although as the Fitzgerald incident has proven, it actually pose more danger to American ships themselves than those commercial ships. Adding more insults, the Chinese navy ships have to play nanny to increasingly incompetent American sailors, sleepwalking overboard. There are two incidents already in the SCS and in Australia. For all the complaint about the Chinese surveillance ship off the coast of Australia, the Talisman Sabre suddenly turns from military exercise into SAR exercise of incompetent sailors, and the American brings plenty of incompetent sailors.