29 April 2015
FOR the 26th time since its founding, Asean leaders met in summit this week to thrash out critical issues confronting the region. There is some urgency this time over one key debate in their talks in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi island: the South China Sea. The potential flashpoints for conflict with global repercussions due to contending territorial claims showed little sign of abating. Indeed, it is hard to be optimistic about a resolution any time soon – or at all – with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noting its growing seriousness in the past year.
China, as the most powerful claimant, is increasingly adversarial despite years of patient diplomacy by Asean. Several of Beijing’s recent moves to assert its claim have raised tensions further: its relocation of an oil rig to waters claimed by Vietnam, sparking unusually harsh protests from Hanoi; the ramming of rival fishing vessels; and the “accidental” cutting of cables of a seismic ship.
While those affected were Vietnamese, the growing pattern of a muscular response from China was troubling the whole region and beyond.
… The writer is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. This article first appeared in RSIS Commentary.
RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 05/05/2015