This year, Malaysia, a claimant state to disputed islands in the South China Sea, is taking over as chairman of Asean.
Given Malaysia’s long tradition of constructive and stable relations with China, this is an unprecedented opportunity to step up the anaemic negotiations over a Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea.
The year 2015 could very well serve as a historic juncture to pivot away from territorial jostling and reconfigure the region’s geopolitical trajectory. Simmering maritime disputes in the Western Pacific constitute the greatest threat to prosperity and peace in the region. It is high time Asean transcended diplomatic symbolism and empty rhetoric in favour of establishing concrete mechanisms, which can contribute to the rule-based resolution of inter-state disputes.
For decades, Asean has successfully prevented armed conflict among its member states. By all means, the South-east Asian region has become a de facto security community, whereby it is almost inconceivable for any Asean country to march into war with a fellow member state.
The threat or the use of force as an instrument of foreign policy has become a strategic anachronism. Instead of mobilising their militaries, Asean members primarily resort to diplomacy and rule-based mechanisms to resolve outstanding problems among themselves.