We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

Beijing's Asean diplomatic coup

4 6 13

Rising tensions in the South China Sea, as well as the Korean peninsula, dominated discussions at the latest ministerial meetings of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean). The just-concluded meetings in the Philippine capital of Manila brought together 27 foreign ministers from across the Asia-Pacific.

On both issues, China not only avoided criticism of its behaviour, but projected leadership with diplomatic finesse. In contrast, the United States struggled to exercise its traditional role as the anchor of stability and prosperity in the region.

Under the chairmanship of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Asean has consistently soft-pedalled on areas of disagreement with China, particularly in the South China Sea. As a result, Asean is fast fading into irrelevance in terms of shaping the regional security architecture.

As years go by, Asean is increasingly playing second fiddle to China, rather than acting as a driver of regional integration.

During the Asean summit in April, President Duterte blocked efforts by some regional states, particularly Vietnam, to criticise China's massive reclamation activities as well as deployment of military assets to disputed land features in adjacent waters. The outcome was the softest Asean statement on the South China Sea since Cambodia's chairmanship in 2012, when the regional body couldn't even agree on discussing the disputes.

During this month's ministerial meetings, Vietnam upped the ante, vehemently lobbying for swift negotiation of a "legally........

© The Straits Times