China is vehemently condemning the head of ASEAN, Vietnam’s Le Luong Minh, for making statements rejecting Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea and for allegedly violating the organization’s neutrality on territorial questions. Reuters reports:
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that China had always supported ASEAN’s economic integration, but that ASEAN was not a party to the South China Sea dispute.“Mr. Le Luong Minh is the ASEAN secretary-general, and on the South China Sea issue has many times made partisan statements that do not accord with the facts nor suit his position,” Hong told a daily news briefing.“This is a serious deviation from the neutral position ASEAN and its secretary-general ought to have on the relevant issue, and damages the image of ASEAN as a regional international organization,” he added.
There are a lot of different plans for arbitrating the many and in some cases overlapping disputes; not surprisingly, the various claimants all favor the negotiating format that plays to their own advantages. The Philippines, for example, wants the UN to arbitrate, and the U.S. probably quietly agrees. Vietnam presumably would favor negotiations in the context of ASEAN itself, and Indonesia and India (the latter of which is not directly involved but is a very interested party and can frequently be found rooting for Vietnam) also seem to be pushing for a multilateral format of one kind or another. China, which claims a wide swath of territory encompassed by the “nine-dash line” on its official maps, favors the bilateral negotiations route.Don’t expect any of these sides to back down anytime soon.