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.”