26 November 2015
The decision by Asean to not issue a joint declaration at the Third Asean Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 4 triggered a barrage of reactions from the international media, some of it misguided.
That the South China Sea dominated discussions at this year’s ADMM-Plus – whose members include the 10 Asean states and the “Plus” countries, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States – is not in question here. Nor, for that matter, that a proposed joint declaration was scrapped owing to disagreements among some Plus countries. Exchanges between the Chinese and Japanese delegations over the South China Sea were reportedly heated.
What is problematic, however, is the inaccurate insinuation in some media accounts that China was the country solely responsible for the non-issuance of a joint declaration.
Equally troubling too is the implication that the incident was reminiscent of the failure of the Asean foreign ministers, at their meeting in Phnom Penh in July 2012, to issue a joint statement – the first time that had ever happened in Asean’s history.
The Asean countries’ collective stance on the joint declaration issue, in the words of an Asean defence official, was an effort to “wrest back control” of a meeting threatened by irreconcilable differences between the major powers.
… The writer is a professor of international relations at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.
GPO / IDSS / Online / Print
Last updated on 26/11/2015