Tag Archives: ASEAN

The view from Asia: Challenges in 2016

So, what difference does the Asean Community make? The first thing to remember is that Asean does not displace the individual nation-state. Each member state has chosen not to subsume any part of its sovereignty to a larger Asean institution or entity. Certainly, in respect of internal affairs, the principle of non-interference is sacrosanct. Therefore, it would be misplaced to expect Asean to make a direct difference in the solution of the many challenges its member states will face in 2016. However, all these problems could become more numerous and complicated if there was no Asean. It is also often contended that if there was no Asean, the level of non-regional foreign interference would be so great as to divide South-east Asian states, even set them against one another. This point is salient when we consider the situation in the South China Sea, where four Asean claimants have territorial claims together with China (and Taiwan). How this is resolved is something that affects the whole region and not just those Asean members. That is why the South China Sea disputes have become the touchstone of the contention that Asean keeps out interlopers who disturb, as well as keeps the region together. In 2016, the absolute minimum must be the conclusion of the binding code of conduct in the South China Sea. – See more at: http://news.asiaone.com/news/asian-opinions/view-asia-challenges-2016#sthash.HX02YP37.dpuf

China: Philippines breached consensus by filing arbitration case

“Our position is crystal clear: we will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spoeksperson Hong Lei said in a press conference on Tuesday. FMPRC MANILA, Philippines – Beijing on Tuesday insisted that the Philippines breached the bilateral consensus between the two countries as it filed an arbitration case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the United Nations. “In an attempt to negate China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, the Philippine side unilaterally initiated the arbitration in breach of bilateral consensus with China and its commitment in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in a press conference. Hong maintained that China will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration case in connection to the disputed South China Sea. The first round of oral arguments on merits before the arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands has started on Tuesday and will last until November 30. Malacañang assured that the Philippine delegation, headed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, is fully prepared to present the country’s case before the tribunal. Meanwhile, China is set to install facilities on islands and reefs in the disputed sea to fulfill its “international responsibility and offer better public goods and services to countries in the region.” Read more: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/11/25/1525798/china-philippines-breached-consensus-filing-arbitration-case

Despite terror threat, South China Sea dispute dominates

KUALA LUMPUR — Ongoing tensions over the South China Sea heightened over the weekend, with China reacting angrily to the latest indications of growing U.S.- Japanese co-operation over the disputed sea.      Neither the U.S. nor Japan has a claim over the waters, unlike China, which claims around 80% of the sea. The Philippines, Vietnam and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also have claims to parts of the South China Sea, through which around $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.      Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday suggested Japan’s Self-Defense Force units could be sent to the area to protect freedom of navigation. His words — the latest signal of Japan’s nascent military assertiveness — backed recent U.S. moves to sail naval vessels through and fly bombers close to areas in which China has been building islands.      Reacting to Abe, Hong Lei, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said, “China will be vigilant against Japan’s interference in the South China Sea issue, its military return to the South China Sea in particular.”      China is using the islands — partly made by dredging seafloor sand onto and around existing reefs and islets — to buttress its case that its territorial waters cover much of the South China Sea.      The U.S., meanwhile, is accusing China of using the artificial islands to undermine freedom of navigation; it describes the islets as military outposts.      Chinese naval commander Wu Shengli said his battalions have shown “enormous restraint” in the face of what he termed American provocations. His ships, he added, are ready to “defend our national sovereignty.”      While the Philippines and Vietnam have joined the U.S. in butting heads with China over the issue, ASEAN has typically avoided either forging a unified position regarding the South China Sea or directly backing member-states.      ASEAN members Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei also claim waters in the South China Sea but for the most part have not locked horns with China over the issue. Read more: http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/Despite-terror-threat-South-China-Sea-dispute-dominates

China tells others don’t ‘stir up trouble’ in South China Sea

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — China on Sunday told other countries not to “deliberately stir up trouble” in the disputed South China Sea, while insisting it has no intention of militarizing the strategically vital area even though it has increased construction activities there. Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin reiterated China’s position that its construction of artificial islands in the sea was designed to “provide public service” to the region by helping ships and fishermen and disaster relief efforts. This also includes military facilities to protect the islands and reefs, which are located far from mainland China, he said. Since 2013, China has accelerated the creation of new outposts by piling sand atop reefs and atolls, and then adding buildings, ports and airstrips big enough to handle bombers and fighter jets — activities seen as an attempt to change the territorial status quo by changing the geography. “One should never link the military facilities with efforts to militarize the South China Sea,” Liu said. “This is a false argument. It is a consistent Chinese position to firmly oppose the militarization of the South China Sea.” Other countries “should not deliberately stir up trouble but contribute to the peace and stability of the region,” he said. Although Liu’s statement broke no new ground — China has said this in various ways before — the setting for his remarks was significant: an Asian summit also attended by President Barack Obama, whose administration has backed the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries who have long-standing disputes with China in the South China Sea. Liu’s comments also serve to send a notice to China’s rivals in the region that it will not back down from its position on the resource-rich sea, irrespective of pressure from the United States. While it opposes any U.S. military incursion, China sees its own military presence there as justifiable. Liu is at the summit accompanying Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. At a separate news conference, Obama said the issue was a “key topic” at the summit of 18 countries that included China, as well as at a separate summit he had with leaders of 10 Southeast Asian countries. “Many leaders spoke about the need to uphold international principles, including the freedom of navigation, and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes,” Obama said. “My fellow leaders from Japan, Australia and the Philippines have reaffirmed that our treaty alliances remained the foundation of regional security. The United States is boosting our support for the Philippines maritime capabilities and those of our regional partners,” Obama said. The other claimants in Southeast Asia are Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. The U.S. and others have called on Beijing to halt the construction, saying they are destabilizing an increasingly militarized region. Washington angered China by sending a warship inside a 12-nautical-mile (22-kilometer) territorial limit around Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands archipelago, where China and the Philippines have competing claims. Liu called the USS Larsen’s voyage last month a “political provocation.” “Is this a trend of militarization that calls for our alert?” Liu asked. “We hope regional countries and those outside the region will make positive and constructive contribution to our efforts to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. Don’t look for trouble.” He said out of some 1,000 islands, reefs and atolls in the vast sea, China has occupied only seven small islands and reefs in waters under its jurisdiction. Without naming any country, he accused three of them of occupying 42 “illegally.” One of them, he said, controls 29, another one eight and the third country five. With the waterway a crucial trade passage, he said freedom of navigation and peace and security of the area are crucial to China’s economic expansion. Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/132687/china-tells-others-dont-stir-up-trouble-in-south-china-sea

Indonesia to voice concerns on China’s maritime claims at ASEAN summit

JAKARTA – Indonesia will openly express its opposition to China’s vast claims in the South China Sea when Southeast Asian senior officials, ministers and leaders gather over the coming days in Kuala Lumpur for a series of annual meetings, stressing that China’s “nine-dash lines” map has no legal basis, a government source said Friday. The area contained in the lines, which covers most of the South China Sea, overlaps with the exclusive economic zone around Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. Indonesia protested against China’s map when it was submitted to the United Nations in May 2009. The source, citing a position paper, said Indonesia will say during meetings of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations that it does not recognize China’s claims based on the nine-dash line map because it “clearly lacks international legal basis,” and therefore Jakarta considers the claims to be in a state of “non-existence.” Although Indonesia is not a claimant state in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it has been warily monitoring China’s development of infrastructure there, including rig and lighthouse construction, as well as its seismic surveys and fishing activities, the paper says. It says Indonesia will stress that it has sovereignty over maritime territory in Natuna Sea and some parts of the South China Sea and therefore needs “to maintain its sovereignty and its sovereign rights in each maritime zone.” Through diplomatic channels and notes, Indonesia has been repeatedly seeking clarification from China on the nine-dash line, which was shown on a map published in 1947 by the then-Republic of China to justify its claims in the South China Sea, but to no avail, the source said. The source said Indonesia will continue playing a positive role in helping to resolve the disputes among the claimants on occasions such as the ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Meeting and during meetings with China aimed at drafting a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea. Read more: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/11/21/asia-pacific/indonesia-voice-concerns-chinas-maritime-claims-asean-summit/#.VlEuLd8rLaa

Najib: Resolve South China Sea issue through peaceful means

Disputes on territorial claims over the South China Sea should be resolved through peaceful means and in accordance with international laws, said Najib Abdul Razak. Opening the 27th Asean Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, the Malaysian prime minister urged all parties to the disputes to exercise restraint. “We stress the importance of resolving disputes through peaceful means, in accordance with international laws including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). “We call on all parties to exercise restraint and avoid actions that would complicate or escalate tension,” he said. Read more: https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/320469

Establishing ‘Rule-based Order’ in S. China Sea High on US Agenda

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — White House officials said establishing a “rule-based order” in the disputed South China Sea region will be high on U.S. President Barack Obama’s agenda as he meets with regional leaders during the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the adjoining East Asia Summit. Obama arrived Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where the summit will be held Saturday and Sunday. The White House has repeatedly said establishing a “rule-based order” is critical to regional security and economic prosperity, both cornerstones of the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. Members of the military and police patrol outside the venue for the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 20, 2015. Members of the military and police patrol outside the venue for the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 20, 2015. Asia policy adviser Dan Kritenbrink said while the United States does not take a position on the maritime territorial disputes, “We do have a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, peaceful resolution of disputes, including the use of the international arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.” Read more: http://m.voanews.com/a/obama-heads-to-asean-summit/3066328.html

Bridging South China Sea divide

 Nobody wants to admit it publicly, at least on the Malaysian side that the Asean Defence Ministers Plus meeting in Malaysia early this month nearly became a disaster. Disagreement between the United States and China over how to address the South China Sea issue resulted in the ministers failing to issue a joint declaration outlining ­cooperation in regional security matters. The United States and its allies had pressed for a mention of disputes in the South China Sea in the joint declaration while a senior US defence official said China had lobbied Asean members to avoid any reference. This is not the first time maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea became an issue. Asean foreign ministers ended a meeting in Cambodia two years ago without issuing the customary joint communique as there had been disagreement over the growing assertiveness of China in the South China Sea. The South China Sea is fast becoming a focal point especially since four of the six claimant countries are Asean members, namely Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The other two are China and Taiwan. This week as the 27th Asean Summit and related summits begin, the issue is escalating again. It will be interesting to see how as Asean chair Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will handle leaders from China and the United States during the 10th East Asia Summit (the Asean 10 plus Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the US). Read more: http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Mergawati/Profile/Articles/2015/11/19/Bridging-South-China-Sea-divide-Balancing-act-for-Malaysia-on-South-China-Sea-issue-Malaysia-in-pivo/

China’s South China Sea Plan Hit A Snag Despite “No Consensus” Asean Summit

The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) concluded its Defence Ministers Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with no joint declaration in early November amidst strong lobbying by China to omit statement criticising its assertiveness in the South China Sea. As disappointing as it was for countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, this was not surprising since Beijing had in the past blocked similar statements such as during the Asean summit in Cambodia in 2012 eventually triggering a diplomatic row between Phnom Penh and Manila. Despite the regional bloc’s failure, there are still some signs that China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea is hitting a snag with two new developments in late October. It all started when a US guided-missile destroyer. USS Lassen sailed by a reef in the disputed Spratly archipelago on 27 October to which Beijing claimed is a violation of its territory and vowed to take all necessary measures. Two days later, China suffered another blow when The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued a ruling saying that it has jurisdiction to hear a suit filed by the Philippines in 2013 over disputed parts in the South China Sea. China had since snubbed the court’s ruling and accused Philippines of “a political provocation under the cloak of law.” Read more: http://www.establishmentpost.com/chinas-south-china-sea-plan-hit-snag-despite-no-consensus-asean-summit/#ixzz3s4xb9w3i

China Appreciates Malaysia’s ‘Quiet’ Diplomacy Approach In Handling South China Sea Issue

China appreciates the “Quiet Diplomacy” approach taken by Malaysia in handling the South China Sea issue, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said. “In another word, they like our non-confrontational approach by using diplomacy as a channel to resolve a complex issue,” he said after a bilateral meeting with China’s President, Xi JinPing here, today. President Xi also said that China has deep political mutual trust with Malaysia and “enjoys good working relationship with me.” Any concerns with regard to South China Sea is conveyed to China in various meetings, he said after the 45-minute meeting held on the sideline of the 23rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in Manila. The meeting was requested by China. Asked what were the concerns, he said: “That we should not rancher up tension in the area, we should ensure that the area continues to be peaceful because peace and stability are prerequisites for prosperity.” On the presence of U.S Naval Ship in the South China Sea, Najib said: “We have to accept the fact that U.S sees itself as a pacific power and will continue to be so.” “In other words, the relations between the United States and China – the two super powers in the region will be the key determinant of whether South China Sea and other parts of the world will continue to be one of peace and stability.” Najib believes the issue will continue to be discussed at the ASEAN Summit that will take place in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend. “It will be discussed. We have discussed it before. So, it is nothing new but the issue is in what context,” he noted. Najib had said before that ASEAN should be guided by its principles of settling dispute in an amicable manner and based on international laws when dealing with the disputed South China Sea claims. He said parties involved in the dispute should not engage in activities that would increase tension. “There are concerns expressed by ASEAN as a group but nations should be guided by the principles enunciated in settling disputes in a very amicable and negotiated manner, (they) must adhere to the international law such as UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” he said. Read more: http://www.malaysiandigest.com/frontpage/282-main-tile/579559-china-appreciates-malaysia-s-quite-diplomacy-approach-in-handling-south-china-sea-issue.html