08 February 2018
China’s defence minister told a meeting with his ASEAN counterparts that improving ties in Southeast Asia was a top priority for Beijing, calling on the two sides to tackle obstacles in the way of better relations.
Diplomatic observers said Chang’s remarks were intended to ease ASEAN’s growing security concerns about China’s military build-up over the South China Sea.
Collin Koh, a military expert from Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted that it was uncommon for a senior Chinese official to offer such reassurance, but agreed ASEAN members were more interested in its actions.
“The words present an increasingly mixed and somewhat uncertain picture to ASEAN countries,” Koh said. “On the one hand, China has put its military forces to good use for international security, such as countering piracy in the Gulf of Aden. But on the other hand, China’s increased muscle flexing in the region and island building could add to ASEAN’s wariness.”
IDSS / Online / Print
Last updated on 09/02/2018