According to a report from IHS Jane’s, China’s delegation is refusing to allow the South China Sea issue to be put on the agenda for an upcoming defense minister’s meeting. Specifically, Jane’s reports that China “declined the proposal by ASEAN countries to have the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea on the discussion agenda of the ADMM-Plus meeting.”
The ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) brings together defense ministers from the 10 ASEAN member states as well as eight other countries: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. The grouping has met twice to date – in Vietnam in 2010 and again in Brunei in 2013. The 2015 edition will be held in mid-November in Malaysia.
The ADMM-Plus grouping previously avoided the contentious topic of the South China Sea disputes, a decision that seriously undermined the group’s avowed commitment to practical cooperation on maritime security issues. At the 2013 meeting, however, ADMM-Plus did discuss using “practical measures” to reduce tensions and prevent conflict in the South China Sea.
Recently, the ASEAN-only equivalent (ADMM) has also shown more willingness to discuss the issue. At the May 2014 ADMM meeting, the defense ministers discussed “approaches for further enhancing cooperation to reduce tension in view of the recent developments in the South China Sea.” ASEAN has also begun pushing more seriously for a conclusion to negotiations with China over a Code of Conduct (CoC) for the South China Sea.