Don’t cry Unclos! South China Sea dispute legalese likely to focus at delayed Asean meeting


If this was any other ordinary, pandemic-free year, August would have heralded a blitz of parachute diplomacy inSoutheast Asia

Regional Forum (ARF), which convenes foreign ministers of the 10-nation bloc and key global partners, is considered so important that it is highly irregular for a major power’s top diplomat to skip the security meeting, no matter their domestic crises.The annualAsean
Alongside the foreign ministers of the US, China, India and Russia, representatives from 17 non-Asean countries attended last year’s meeting in Thailand.

At times, the ARF – now in its 27th year – is an arena of fierce diplomatic fisticuffs.

Most times, however, the handful of us who self-profess as gadflies of these Asean goings-on are left to parse dreary post-meeting statements.

This year’s ARF was to have happened last week but was postponed to September owing to a surge in coronavirus cases in host nation Vietnam.