28 April 2015
The latest ASEAN summit has not thrown up any significant sign of an early resolution to the South China Sea disputes. As leaders pursue the necessary path of diplomacy, more decisive actions may be needed, including a change of name to the “Southeast Asia Sea”.
ASEAN leaders held their 26th summit this week to sort out critical issues confronting the region. One urgent issue in their official talks in Kuala Lumpur and their retreat on Langkawi Island was the South China Sea where potential flashpoints for conflict over contending territorial claims showed little sign of abating. Indeed, it is hard to be optimistic about a resolution anytime 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 in 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 reflected the growing pattern of muscular response from China which was troubling the whole region particularly the Philippines and Vietnam.
… Yang Razali Kassim is a Senior Fellow of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 30/04/2015