Brunei is an absolute monarchist, Islamic state of 420,000 people on the north coast of Borneo, wedged into the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Indonesia and Malaysia own 99 percent of Borneo, which is the third largest island in the world, located at the maritime center of Southeast Asia. It has become a key pawn in China’s offense to control the South China Sea.
The United Nations Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague is due to rule on the Philippines’ claim to the Scarborough Shoal – expected end-May or June. China is scrambling to find global and regional support for “direct bilateral negotiations” rather than international arbitration. It refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the Court and says it will not abide by its rulings.
China is particularly keen to disable ASEAN from uniting against its ‘nine-dash line’ claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea. It has declared that Laos and Cambodia agree disputes should be settled through direct bilateral negotiations. It has now added Brunei to that list, removing three of the 10 members of ASEAN, which works only through group consensus