Just two days ago, China’s Foreign Minister was bristling at his neighbors, telling them that their claims on the South China Sea are “futile” and doomed to fail. Now, on the back of an apparently successful meeting with ASEAN nations in Brunei, the minister is singing a very different tune. Businessweek:
“China and Asean countries are close neighbors and we are like members of one big family,” China Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters. “We believe that a united, prosperous and dynamic Asean that seeks greater strength through unity is in China’s strategic interest.”
Representatives from the Philippines were not quite as sanguine, saying that the large Chinese naval presence posed significant “threats to efforts to maintain maritime peace and stability in the region.” But with further talks scheduled for September, the Philippines seem to be ultimately taking a wait-and-see approach.That’s probably wise. Though this is what the US has been pushing for, it’s not clear whether the talks will be realistic and whether the Chinese will accept significant restrictions on their activity in the disputed waters.