ASEAN disputes shelved at summit

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During meetings with ASEAN Plus Three leaders in Phnom Penh on November 19, Beijing officials have tried to steer away attention from the controversial maritime dispute in the South China Sea along with the aid of host country Cambodia, Chinese media has reported.

Instead, ASEAN leaders focused on discussions about the international financial crisis, the slowdown of the global economy and efforts to boost growth in Southeast Asia.

Simmering maritime disputes were only mentioned in “general terms” by the Philippines among the claimant ASEAN nations, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at the sidelines of the summit. I

However, in a meeting including Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Japan warned that confrontation could directly affect regional “peace and stability.”

The ASEAN+3 countries are ASEAN nations and China, Japan and South Korea.

The disputes have recently ignited flares of ardent nationalism in claimant countries across the region, especially China and the Philippines, the latter of which has witnessed increased protests to Beijing’s bold moves.

“This is not a shared issue,” Qin reaffirmed journalists. “The Philippines and Vietnam do not represent the shared concern of ASEAN.”

Bowing to balance

Yet, the finalisation of a Code of Conduct remains lost in the obscure future.

That the issue was shelved at the summit is testament to Beijing’s increased influence in the bloc of 600 million people.

Only a week after the once-in-a-decade power shift in China’s political elite was made, touching on polemical issues is being avoided among the regional leaders.

“The media has run away with the issue,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Tun Razak.

Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodian added by saying he represents the ASEAN bloc by announcing consensus in avoiding “internationalisation” of the South China Sea.

However, some progressive measures have been discussed.

Dr Surin Pistuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, announced on November 17 the decidedly old-fashioned strategy of opening up a “hot-line” to address claims.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, speaking on the sidelines of the summit, said that “what Indonesia is now looking for, while we are working on the [Code of Conduct], is a commitment on the part of ASEAN and China to open a hotline of communication,” according to the Phnom Penh Post.

“If there were to be an incident in the future – irrespective of the fact that the Code of Conduct is not yet in operation – we can commit to having communication and dialogue,” he added.

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During meetings with ASEAN Plus Three leaders in Phnom Penh on November 19, Beijing officials have tried to steer away attention from the controversial maritime dispute in the South China Sea along with the aid of host country Cambodia, Chinese media has reported. Instead, ASEAN leaders focused on discussions about the international financial crisis, the slowdown of the global economy and efforts to boost growth in Southeast Asia. Simmering maritime disputes were only mentioned in "general terms" by the Philippines among the claimant ASEAN nations, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at the sidelines of the summit. I However,...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

During meetings with ASEAN Plus Three leaders in Phnom Penh on November 19, Beijing officials have tried to steer away attention from the controversial maritime dispute in the South China Sea along with the aid of host country Cambodia, Chinese media has reported.

Instead, ASEAN leaders focused on discussions about the international financial crisis, the slowdown of the global economy and efforts to boost growth in Southeast Asia.

Simmering maritime disputes were only mentioned in “general terms” by the Philippines among the claimant ASEAN nations, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at the sidelines of the summit. I

However, in a meeting including Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Japan warned that confrontation could directly affect regional “peace and stability.”

The ASEAN+3 countries are ASEAN nations and China, Japan and South Korea.

The disputes have recently ignited flares of ardent nationalism in claimant countries across the region, especially China and the Philippines, the latter of which has witnessed increased protests to Beijing’s bold moves.

“This is not a shared issue,” Qin reaffirmed journalists. “The Philippines and Vietnam do not represent the shared concern of ASEAN.”

Bowing to balance

Yet, the finalisation of a Code of Conduct remains lost in the obscure future.

That the issue was shelved at the summit is testament to Beijing’s increased influence in the bloc of 600 million people.

Only a week after the once-in-a-decade power shift in China’s political elite was made, touching on polemical issues is being avoided among the regional leaders.

“The media has run away with the issue,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Tun Razak.

Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodian added by saying he represents the ASEAN bloc by announcing consensus in avoiding “internationalisation” of the South China Sea.

However, some progressive measures have been discussed.

Dr Surin Pistuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, announced on November 17 the decidedly old-fashioned strategy of opening up a “hot-line” to address claims.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, speaking on the sidelines of the summit, said that “what Indonesia is now looking for, while we are working on the [Code of Conduct], is a commitment on the part of ASEAN and China to open a hotline of communication,” according to the Phnom Penh Post.

“If there were to be an incident in the future – irrespective of the fact that the Code of Conduct is not yet in operation – we can commit to having communication and dialogue,” he added.

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