South China Sea tensions Shift in ASEAN against Chinese buildup


SINGAPORE — Malaysia, Indonesia and others are stepping up criticism of China’s island-building in the South China Sea, abandoning previously neutral stances and potentially swinging the balance of opinion in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations against the regional heavyweight.

     Defense ministers from ASEAN members and observer nations including China, the U.S., South Korea, Australia and Japan will meet in Malaysia on Tuesday and Wednesday. It will be the first major international conference since the U.S. sailed a warship within 12 nautical miles of China’s man-made islands — an area that Beijing considers territorial waters. Both powers have supporters and opponents within ASEAN. Thus the talks will likely be the stage for the first public confrontation between the U.S. and China over the issue, as well as for campaigns to win over ASEAN as a whole.

     The bloc has so far kept its official position on the South China Sea buildup vague, seeking to maintain favor with both the U.S. and China. The 10 members themselves are split into three camps over the issue. The Philippines and Vietnam are embroiled in territorial conflicts with China in the area, and have thus sided firmly with the U.S. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have remained neutral. The remaining five — Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia — have all sided with China, to varying degrees.

Read more:

China, South China Sea Dispute, Philippines, USA, Spratlys, Artificial Islands, Reclamation, Regular Patrols, Military Conflict, Militarization, ADIZ, Air Defense Identification Zone