MANILA – China’s support for finalizing a code of conduct in the hotly contested South China Sea is generating some hope in Southeast Asia of settling disputes, but those working out the terms remain unconvinced of Beijing’s sincerity.
Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the strategic waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
But given the continued building and arming of its artificial islands in the South China Sea, Beijing’s recently expressed desire to work with ASEAN to complete a framework this year has been met with skepticism and suspicion.
“Some of us in ASEAN believe this is just another ploy by China to buy time,” said one senior diplomat familiar with the talks.
“China is expectedly stalling until it has completely attained its strategic objectives… What need is there for the green grass when the horse is dead?”