In a first, ASEAN foreign ministers have failed to issue a summary statement of their deliberations.
The point of contention was the South China Sea. “In Beijing’s view, ASEAN has no business trying to resolve the disputes over the South China Sea, which can only be settled bilaterally between China and each of the four Southeast Asian claimants,” writes Southeast Asia scholar Donald Emmerson for Asia Times. He questions whether the divide may damage ASEAN’s ability “to sponsor a binding code governing state behavior in the South China Sea.” Discussions between China and ASEAN on a draft code are scheduled for September.
The drafting of the code embodies the ongoing power struggle over Chinese claims. Observers are on alert for any delays or changes brought under Chinese pressure. “Throwing its weight around in the South China Sea may well keep lesser states at bay, but it will confirm China’s image as a bully,” Emmerson concludes. “Beijing feels entitled to the South China Sea, and that sense of entitlement limits its ability to project soft power.” China could be better off with a multilateral process rather than a series of bilateral fights with ASEAN members. – YaleGlobal China’s claims to South China Sea divide ASEAN members, who fail to issue a consensus statement Donald K. EmmersonAsia Times Online, 19 July 2012Donald K Emmerson heads the Southeast Asia Forum at Stanford University. His latest publication is “Southeast Asia: Minding the Gap between Democracy and Governance,” Journal of Democracy (April 2012).
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