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Asia's Game of Thrones
ASEAN Countries Rebuke China?

The signing ceremony for the “Kuala Lumpur Joint Declaration” was dropped from the ASEAN defense forum’s program after Chinese delegates began pressuring participants to remove any reference to tensions in the South China Sea from the joint statement, the New York Times reports:

The Chinese Ministry of Defense confirmed that the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, had failed to conclude a joint declaration, and it blamed “the individual country (countries) out of the region.” In a statement on its website, the ministry implied, but did not name, the United States as the main reason for the breakdown in the discussions.

The ministry did not mention the South China Sea or China’s insistence that the statement not include any mention of the strategic waterway.

Diplomats from countries in the region said that China had pushed for even a factual statement of the South China Sea to be absent from the joint declaration scheduled for the end of the gathering Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting was split between countries that agreed with China and those that strongly disagreed, including Australia, Japan and the United States, two senior diplomats involved in the talks said.

A U.S. representative saw the move as an explicit rebuke to China: “Understandably a number of ASEAN countries‎ felt that [pressure] was inappropriate. It reflects the divide China’s reclamation and militarization in the South China Sea has caused in the region”, he said. “This was an ASEAN decision but in our view no statement is better than one that avoids the important issue of China’s reclamation and militarization in the South China Sea.” Chinese officials, for their part, tried to shift the blame, saying that “certain countries” (read: Japan and the United States) had “tried to forcefully stuff in content to the joint declaration”, leading to the collapse in talks.

It is hard to know exactly what happened in Kuala Lumpur. But it is clear that this development frustrates China and pleases the United States. As such, it may be a sign that new U.S. policy in the region—for instance, last week’s freedom of navigation exercises—has started to bear fruit.

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  • Dhako

    Not true at all. It’s a sign that the all the huff and hustle by the US, the ASEAN, are minded to keep the bottom-line, which is, that they do not want any breach of diplomacy with China. And, no amount of suggesting otherwise, will make it so. And, lastly, China, has achieved it’s minimum objective, which is to keep the South China Sea, as a bilateral affair, not an issue that will be open to the multilateral approach.
    And this will mean that instead of this issue becoming one against many (i.,e., China vs. ASEAN states). It will simply means, that from henceforth, the disputant nations must find their solution on a bilateral basis, in which the Chinese are happy with.

    Hence ,it was another raw deal (a defeat, no less) for US agenda of getting the ASEAN States ganging up on China, in a forum like this one at best. And, at worse, it simply means, from this point on words, the South China Sea issue, will be one in which China, can take her leisurely approach of building her reclaim islands while all along any states in the region who thinks a contrary view of the issue to that of China, will know that there is no regional “clout” waiting for them out in the wings, which in turn will come out to it’s rescue. Which means, they are “condemned” to deal with China, on a one-to-one basis, I fear.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Lighten up Francis

  • Jim__L

    So on our side we have Australia, Japan, and whatever unnamed countries are included (the Philippines, maybe?)

    Does this show that China’s sphere of influence includes everyone else in the region?

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