09 March 2017
Amid growing tensions between the US and China over the South China Sea, Asean’s foreign ministers released a statement last month declaring their unanimous concern over China’s increasing militarisation of its artificial islands in the disputed waters.
Although the regional grouping’s decision to mention China by name is surprising, the region’s heavy economic dependence on the superpower means the bloc is unlikely to act on its concerns.
Philippine foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay remained quiet on what specific “recent development” had prompted the ten-member association to issue an uncharacteristically firm statement, but described China’s installation of weapons on its artificual islands as “unsettling”.
Harry Sa, a research analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ US programme, told Southeast Asia Globe that the statement could be a “proactive step” to entice greater US involvement at a time when its interests in the region remain unclear. “That said, Trump does not have any particular interest in Southeast Asia,” he added.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 10/03/2017