Saturday, September 25, 2010

Asean fears US support over maritime dispute may alienate China

Southeast Asian governments are concerned that the increasingly vocal US comments about the South China Sea disputes could alienate China.

While Western politicians usually like their foreign policy statements bold and clear, the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) prefer the softly-softly approach.

An initial draft of the statement to be issued at the end of Friday's US-Asean summit, prepared by the Philippines, opposed the "use or threat of force by any claimant attempting to enforce disputed claims in the South China Sea," according to an AP report.

But, according to the Bangkok Post, Asean leaders pushed the US to remove any direct reference to the South China Sea for fear of angering China.

Kasit Piromya, Thailand's foreign minister, told the paper:

"We have discussed the South China Sea issue at the Asean Regional Forum to which all the claimant states are members. It might be inappropriate if Asean and the US discuss this issue without China being present. We don't want to be seen as trying to gang up with the US against China."

And Asean appeared to have won this particular diplomatic debate, with the final joint statement not mentioning the South China Sea, saying only:

"We reaffirmed the importance of regional peace and stability, maritime security, unimpeded commerce, and freedom of navigation, in accordance with relevant universally agreed principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other international maritime law, and the peaceful settlement of disputes."

However, the White House's official "read-out" of President Barack Obama's meeting with the Asean leaders makes an overt mention of the South China Sea:

"The President and the leaders also agreed on the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation, regional stability, and respect for international law, including in the South China Sea."

Sometimes, you have to wonder why diplomats bother with such circumlocutions.


  1. Seems there are really a lot "balless" and "self serving" people out there who are willing to "kowtow" to the future BIG Bully.

    Now how moronic is that. Giving it to a bully will only make a Bully want even more.

  2. The owner of an stolen object is highly vocal about getting it back from the thief and wants it known that the object belongs to who.

    Some people think the owner is a bully and he/she should shut up.


  3. China claims the Spratly Islands, just like the other Asean members, and its surrounding seas according to international law (UNCLOS). That does not mean China claims the South China Sea and making it into a "China lake". This is a lie propagated by US propaganda machine. And Indonesia has been misled into thinking it this way by US propaganda.

  4. Why should ASEAN have to kow-tow to China, and the language of the US is only meant to call out those parties who have an issue with peaceful resolution.

    ASEAN needs to choose its path quick, softly-softly approaches may not work well in the future when you are up against great powers.

  5. Without US support, China for sure will not engage in multilateral negotiation. China has been preferred bilateral negotiation...a way to divide and conquer the ASIAN members.

    Even worst, with bilateral negotiation, China can delay the negotiation process, buy time until its naval even get stronger in the South China Sea. By then China does not need to negotiate with anyone!

    So the ASIAN needs to make up their mind.