CRF Blog

ASEAN in crisis

by David De La Torre

In Divided we stagger, The Economist reports on the rifts among Asian nations.

The cause of the furore is the widening division in the ten-member grouping over China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. The division was laid bare publicly at a meeting last month of ASEAN foreign ministers in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. For the first time in its history ASEAN failed to issue a joint communiqué. Its members could not agree on what to say about China. Broadly, those members with claims in the South China Sea themselves—Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, supported by Singapore and Thailand—want ASEAN to register serious concerns over what they see as China’s belligerent actions to enforce its claims in the waters of the South China Sea and over the Spratly, Paracel and other islands and atolls. However, non-claimants, mainly Cambodia supported by Laos and perhaps Myanmar, are loth to alienate China. They go along with China’s insistence on dealing with the issue with each country in turn. This year Cambodia holds the rotating chair of ASEAN. [more]