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Good News from the South China Sea

Representatives from ASEAN and China have agreed to talk about a code of conduct in the South China Sea, Indonesia Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters today. That’s great news, especially because the meeting was China’s idea, according to Natalegawa. If true, this is a departure from Beijing’s usual stonewalling when it comes to working out territorial disputes.

We don’t have the full story yet, and there are no guarantees that China and ASEAN countries will agree on anything at the ASEAN conference later this month. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Over the past few months, China has antagonized one neighbor after another, aggressively asserting its claims to disputed territory and refusing to negotiate with other claimants. As a result, China has driven almost every single neighbor away, forcing them into the relative security of each other’s (and America’s) warm embrace. Perhaps that’s changing, but it will take more than a promise to talk before we believe it.

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  • Jim Luebke

    So is China actually doing this multilaterally, too?

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