The End Of ASEAN?


“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down,” Friedrich Nietzsche once claimed. Words do matter — and in international diplomacy, they can sometimes spell the difference between neglectful chaos and principled order.

After securing a landmark legal victory against China in the South China Sea, the Philippines is struggling to amass regional support. As far as Southeast Asian countries’ official pronouncements are concerned, the verdict — which aligns maritime claims, particularly by China, with modern international law — never happened.

Though the ruling is binding under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, its enforcement is largely dependent on the international community’s commitment to ensuring compliance among concerned parties.

The recently concluded Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) revealed divisions rather than unity on the issue. After days of tense discussions among member countries, the regional body failed to come up with any meaningful statement on the Philippines’ arbitration case against China.