Can ASEAN Respond to the Chinese Challenge?


China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, resumed consultations on the South China Sea in Singapore Tuesday.

In theory, active work on a declaration and code of conduct for the South China Sea—the arena of conflicting territorial claims—should ease tensions, but the opposite may be true.

On March 9 China took the unilateral step of blocking Philippines ships attempting to resupply marines on Second Thomas Shoal. Also, growing tension between China and Malaysia over the fruitless search for missing Malaysian flight MH307, carrying 239 people, including 154 Chinese—could further sour the meeting.

The first round of consultations, in China in September, was under the umbrella of the Joint Working Group to Implement the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or DOC, and the first time that the group held preliminary discussions on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, or COC.


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