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Commentary: U.S. should bear healthy mindset when developing ties with ASEAN

By Zhong Sheng (People's Daily Online)    16:16, February 19, 2016

The curtain closed on a special meeting between U.S. and ASEAN leaders in California on Tuesday Pacific Time. It was the first such meeting on U.S. soil.

Although some had been hyping up the meeting as an “ideal occasion” to provoke China, the following joint statement did not specifically mention China, or the South China Sea issue.

Given the backdrop of China-ASEAN ties, such a result is not unexpected, but the unhealthy mindset of damaging China-ASEAN ties should evoke a cause for alarm.

The ASEAN has been growing its vitality and strategic importance in the current global arena, especially after it announced the establishment of the ASEAN Community. In the future international and regional landscape, it will play a more significant role.

Meanwhile, it can help deepen regional collaboration and promote the prosperity and stability of East Asia by forging equal and amicable ties which do not target any third party with its partners including the U.S.

However, for quite a while, the roadmap drawn by some for U.S.-ASEAN relations has gone against the right track. 

The Philippines, for example, once tried to persuade other parties to write “South China Sea arbitration” into the agenda and the outcome document as an attempt to let the ASEAN “endorse” the unilaterally-filed arbitration. Washington, at the same time, also shared this motivation.

In fact, similar diplomatic games over the South China Sea issue have appeared several times in the past years, but the results repeatedly proved that the ASEAN can properly balance the interests and concerns of all parties and won’t be “abducted” by the unilateral proposition of any one member state.

Most ASEAN states are alert enough to acts that could harm its credibility and reputation, or undermine the leading role of cooperation in ASEAN and East Asia at large. They are also unwilling to see a community “led” by one single state.

As a matter of fact, the active involvement of certain outside countries in the South China Sea is driven by ulterior motives.

In the statement after the meeting, so-called “demilitarization” was hyped up again. But it is known to all that as an outside country, the U.S. has been flexing military muscle by frequently sending warships and aircraft into the South China Sea and plotting to conduct so-called joint patrols with other countries.

Such behaviors have posed serious threats to the sovereignty and security of regional countries. What the U.S. has done is a major push to the militarization of the South China Sea.

Hyping up the South China Sea issue is inconsistent with the interests of the ASEAN. The core of the issue lies in territorial and maritime right disputes, which is exclusively between China and some ASEAN members.

The communication between China and ASEAN nations regarding the South China Sea issue is effective. China supports the dual-track notion proposed by ASEAN members, believing it as the most effective approach for addressing the issue. Derailing from the track will only cause interruption and damage to the efforts.

That is why Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha noted in the meeting that all sides should ease the disputes through constructive dialogue.

He also stressed that the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) is a useful mechanism to win trust among the concerned parties and bring about peaceful solutions to the conflict.

As the ASEAN is striding forward, many countries are striving to boost their ties with it. But only through sincere assistance, instead of self desires, can those attempts be translated into win-win results. 

This article is edited and translated from 美国发展同东盟关系要端正心态  Source: People's Daily

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Bianji,Wu Chengliang)

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