ASEAN progress on maritime disputes – full steam ahead

by Chris Zappone

It doesn’t look like it’s going China’s way.  

The UN has set up the arbitration court the Philippine government requested in January resolve the stand-off over the islands. During the recent ASEAN meeting Secretary-General Le Luong Minh was asked what would happen if China rejects negotiations with ASEAN on island disputes. 

“So we will strive to invite China to engage in this process and we hope to get a peaceful solution to the issue of the South China Sea,” he added.

China, meanwhile, accuses the Philippines of attempting to legalize its “occupation” of the Scarlborough Shoal. 

China’s attitude is that the “durable solution” the Philippines seeks is the same as a ruling on sovereignty.

by initiating the arbitration on the basis of its illegal occupation of China’s islands and reefs, the Philippines has distorted the basic facts underlying the disputes between China and the Philippines. In so doing, the Philippines attempts to deny China’s territorial sovereignty and clothes its illegal occupation of China’s islands and reefs with a cloak of “legality”. The Philippines’ attempt to seek a so-called “durable solution” such as this and the means it has employed to that end are absolutely unacceptable to China.

So last year, it was point to China. This year, ASEAN is aiming to find common ground on the issue ahead of planned discussions with Beijing later this year.

You would think that for all Beijing’s talk about soft-power someone there could step back from the issue and see how this looks to the non-Chinese claimants and by extension the world. But then maybe not. Because this may not be about China dealing with the outside world but China dealing with internal forces.