ASEAN to Keep Mum on South China Sea: Diplomats

KUALA LUMPUR: Southeast Asia will not issue a statement on the rejection of Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea by an international tribunal, regional diplomats said on Thursday (Jul 14), blaming the no-comment on pressure by Beijing. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had weighed whether to speak out on Tuesday’s ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, said Southeast Asian diplomats with knowledge of the matter. But 10-member ASEAN, whose unity has been increasingly strained in the face of Chinese expansionism, could not find common ground, they said. “ASEAN officials had prepared a draft text but there was no agreement to release a joint statement,” said a Southeast Asian diplomat, adding that China was believed to have leaned on its ASEAN allies Laos and Cambodia to prevent a statement in the highly charged affair. “Some ASEAN countries are definitely not happy. Beijing’s action can be seen as interference in ASEAN’s centrality,” the source said.

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Why it matters: Let the news speak for themselves. Following the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, it seems that ASEAN will face a big challenge
to its centrality as well as to the stability of the region. The ruling has shown that Philippines’ decision to go it alone has garnered international support and possibly
created a momentum for rules-based maritime security architecture. Meanwhile, China still continues to deny the result of the ruling, and its strong influence in the region will make it difficult for ASEAN country to jointly
declare a statement on the issue—not to say support for the Philippines, their fellow member countries. When one asks what will be of the South China Sea, one must also ask what will become of ASEAN.

14 July 2016

ASEAN to Keep Mum on South China Sea: Diplomats

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