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Asia's Game of Thrones
ASEAN Unanimously Unsettled By China

Speaking after a foreign ministers’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines has said that the body is unanimously concerned about Chinese militarization in the South China Sea. Reuters:

Southeast Asian countries see China’s installation of weapons systems in the South China Sea as “very unsettling” and have urged dialogue to stop an escalation of “recent developments”, the Philippines said on Tuesday.

The region’s foreign ministers were unanimous in their concern over China’s militarization of its artificial islands, but were confident a framework for a code of maritime conduct could be agreed with Beijing by June, Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said. […]

He said demilitarisation would be a key component of any ASEAN-China code of conduct, but it was too soon to say whether Beijing’s dismantling of its weapons installations would be a prerequisite.

“The ASEAN members have been unanimous in their expression of concern about what they see as a militarization of the region,” Yasay told reporters after a ministers’ retreat on the Philippine island of Boracay.

It is no secret that many Asian nations are spooked by China’s actions in the South China Sea, but the statement comes as a surprise given that neither the Philippines nor ASEAN have been steadfast critics of China of late. The Philippines, which is chairing ASEAN for 2017, has been seeking to mend ties with Beijing under President Rodrigo Duterte, and recently warned the U.S. against using ASEAN as a proxy for its rivalry with China. And ASEAN itself rarely finds consensus on anything, especially China; the forum’s past efforts to issue tough statements denouncing Beijing’s activity in the South China Sea have been derailed, walked back or watered down by China-friendly members like Cambodia.

There are many recent developments that could be changing ASEAN’s calculus. Beijing has certainly stepped up the pace of its provocations in recent months, from its seizure of a U.S. drone off the Philippines’ waters to the recent war games and weapons tests in the South China Sea. But the most decisive factor, and the one explicitly cited by Yasay, appears to be China’s installation of weapons on the Spratly Islands. That development was revealed via satellite imagery in December and earned China an official rebuke from Manila.

ASEAN’s expression of concern over China may not translate immediately into action, and it is worth noting that Yasay’s remarks came as the summary of ASEAN members’ private concerns, not an official statement issued from the forum. Still, his comments offer a revealing look at the rising alarm felt by many states in Asia—even those most inclined toward Beijing—over China’s aggressive maneuvers. The Philippines also noted that they are still awaiting a “more concrete and clear picture” of Trump’s China policies, while expressing hope that the U.S. could play a constructive role. The Trump administration would do well to heed those voices, and communicate speedily how it intends to deter further Chinese militarization.

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  • lukelea

    Subuc Bay would be a good place to start.

  • Disappeared4x

    Might want to send a memo to Schumer to stop the theatrical, SchizophrenicDemObstruction in the U.S. Senate, and “speedily” confirm POTUS’ cabinet, and allow the Senate to schedule the confirmation hearing for Gov. Branstad as Ambassador to China if you want “…The Trump administration would do well to heed those voices, and communicate speedily how it intends to deter further Chinese militarization.”

    May March2017 be less schizophrenic, i.e., (in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Don’t count upon that happening. The Democrats learned one thing from Obama if nothing else….their REAL enemies are not the Chinese or the Russians, but the GOP. They can be counted on to behave accordingly

      • Disappeared4x

        Yes, we know this. Just saw a headline that Schumer thinks the GOP will abandon Trump by summer. This obstructionism is more sinister than before.

        Yet, remarkable how many posts online on so many issues demanding POTUS needs to act now!, without noticing the unprecedented obstruction just in getting confirmation hearings and votes scheduled.

        • f1b0nacc1

          I am willing to be patient at this point, and I suspect that Trump will have more likely success with the population at large than with the pundits and blog commenters, most of whom didn’t like him in hte first place.

          • Disappeared4x

            Yes, but he still needs an ambassador to China…

          • f1b0nacc1

            Really? Why?

            Seriously….this isn’t 1850 (or even 1950), and anything that the President has to say to Xi he is more than capable of saying himself using any number of quite secure methods of communications. The Ambassador is more often than not a political appointee, with almost no real understanding of the target country. Even if none of this were true, the State Department hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory when it comes to doing their job….

            The Department of State is necessary because it is in the Constitution, but it is not necessarily ‘desirable’ I don’t believe that Trump’s foreign policy (or even simply just his China policy) is crippled without Terry Bransted. Now, on general principles, he should be confirmed promptly, but lets keep it in perspective.

          • Disappeared4x

            Any nation would see an adversary as weak if he can not even persuade his own government to support an ambassador. Branstad has had a personal relationship with Xi Jinping since 1985. The confirmation hearing is not yet scheduled. Would Xi see this as a personal insult because of POTUS’ ‘weakness’?

            China seems intent on restoring the Middle Kingdom’s centrality to the world, maybe circa 1750 -1820, before being humiliated by gwai lo:
            Fascinating infographic of GDP share through CE history:

            Not that we want Dhako’s opinion on this, nor quotes from Sun Tzu.

          • f1b0nacc1

            All well and good, but largely irrelevant. The Chinese will not be unaware of Trumps travails with the Democrats, and if this leads them to conclude that Trump is weak (or that China is not respected), far more to the good (grin)….

          • Disappeared4x

            Agree to disagree on this. 🙂

  • Unelected Leader

    Xi’s foreign policy blunders have been hilarious to watch. He has undone years of careful by the regime to convince Asia of a “peaceful rise” and “win win”

  • Other than maybe Laos and Cambodia, China has very few friends in ASEAN. Even Duterte is unlikely to cave in to their demands completely, it would mean the end of his rule.

  • Jon Robbins

    Notice that they never name China. That’s more important than anything else. This article is about 90% wishful thinking,

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