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ASEAN's united front against China does not exist

(Global Times)

08:20, September 26, 2011

The Philippines convened a regional meeting Thursday in Manila, pushing ASEAN countries to form a united front against China over the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The Philippines has lost its cool over the territorial disputes. It clamors for a united ASEAN front to blunt China, which appears to be a diplomatic illusion. On significant issues concerning territory and sovereignty, China will not scale back its claims and submit to external pressure.

During the meeting, maritime legal experts neither endorsed the plan for joint South China Sea development, nor confirmed the legal basis for the Philippine proposal. Two ASEAN members, Cambodia and Laos, did not even send delegates to the meeting. Such facts demonstrate the lack of consensus within ASEAN. There is no collective will to unite and confront China, especially among those who have no part in the South China Sea dispute.

Before Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's current visit to Japan, diplomats from both countries had engaged in talks over the South China Sea dispute. Backed by the US, the Philippines now tries to involve more regional players like Japan to collectively check China. But such efforts will be fruitless.

Some regional countries may want to use the Philippines to balance China. But generally, the strategic significance of their relationship with China will overwhelm their need to play up to the Philippines. However, they will understand the potential risks if they become involved in the dispute.

Seeking a united regional stance to isolate China and, by doing so, win concessions will only prove futile. The Philippines has to return to bilateral negotiations over the disputed waters. The Philippines plays the regional meeting as a card. Nevertheless, if the Philippines really wants a showdown over the South China Sea issue, China has many more cards to play.

The ASEAN countries, who sent delegates to discuss the Philippine proposal, have their own anxieties and problems with China. They will not step into the conflict and conform to the Philippine requirements. Even the Philippines itself does not want its dispute to escalate. Just three weeks ago during his visit to China, Aquino stressed his desire for peaceful dialogue over territorial disputes.

The Philippines does not have the willpower to sacrifice its relationship with China and become involved in an armed standoff. Seeking ASEAN help to isolate China is pure nationalist fantasy.


Leave your comment13 comments

  1. Name

PD User at 2011-09-27117.120.16.*
ASEAN is a grouping to facilitate the trade and investment, not a grouping to settle political disputes for its member states. If ASEAN allowed itself to be abused outside the original common goal, the end game for ASEAN is an accelerated self-distruction. EU grouping is far more mature than ASEAN. What will happen to EU is everyone's guess now. The future looks pretty bleak.
PD User at 2011-09-2771.251.47.*
US is the one that should be divided. In fact, Vermont, Texas, California have thoughts of seceeding from US. It is known to all that US has designs to break up Tibet, Xinjiang, and Manchuria from Mainland China. If these areas are split from China. China would have only one half of its present size. No such luck! China has risen since Mao declared that 60 years ago on Tiananmen.
wende at 2011-09-2771.251.47.*
Kevin, it is the US that needs to be divided. Vermont and Texas together with California are seceeding from the big country USA. If there are so many people living like slaves, why should US scare like hell about the rise of China. Chinese like me know US has long been thinking of breaking up China with independence for Tibet, Xinjiang, and even Manchuria. No such luck! China has risen and it is looking to bring Chinese at par with US in the living standard. Like Obama wants Palestine to talk with Israel. It is but natural for Philippines and Vietnam to negotiate with China one-on-one. What China lacks is a sweet talking mouth like the one US has. It is sweet talking before the screw!
Edmad at 2011-09-27218.186.8.*
Although the Philippines failed to form an united front against China over the South China Sea disputes, the situation is still of great concern for everyone in the region. Beijing must not treat this matter lightly. More importantly Beijing must used all its wisdom to come up with an amicable proposal that all the claimants can accept otherwise there is no end to the problems and flare-ups. It is clear that these neighboring countries want to solve this issue before China becomes too powerful even for the US to meddle in. They will no longer allowed China to drag the disputes. That is their bottom line.
JAM at 2011-09-2688.84.121.*
Well, if China really believe of having an ace in their hands then why they hesitate to play with the Philippines in an honest,sincere and fair game in the International Tribunal Court arena under the UNCLOS guidelines.

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