ASEAN united on East Sea issues

(VOVworld) – The 22nd ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) opened on Thursday within the framework of the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM-49) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The forum discusses pressing regional issues like disputes in the East Sea. Although China has tried to exclude discussing the East Sea at the forum, the subject has dominated both main discussions and sideline meetings. ASEAN countries are united in their stance on current East Sea conflicts. a

ASEAN united on East Sea issues - ảnh 1

The ASEAN Regional Forum was formed in 1994 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the initial aims of holding dialogues on politics and security, building trust, and advancing preventive diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific. ARF now has 27 members including 10 ASEAN nations, 10 ASEAN dialogue partners, and 7 other countries. ARF has played an important role in ensuring regional security.

East Sea conflicts dominate ARF-22

Sovereignty disputes in the East Sea have become a focus of regional and global security forums including ARF.

ARF-21 in 2014 in Myanmar approved a joint-statement on the East Sea, which expressed deep concerns about China’s activities intensifying tensions in the region. Given each ASEAN nation had its own stance on the East Sea, the joint-statement was of great significance, showing ASEAN’s unity and consensus.

While China has been pushing ahead with the construction of artificial islands and runways on Vietnam’s Spratly Islands, the situation has been drawing greater attention from ARF members.

ASEAN shows consensus in resolving East Sea disputes

The East Sea has been a hot topic in the lead up to ARF. Before traveling to Malaysia, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that attempts to bring the topic up at the ASEAN security talks would "counter-productive" and would "provoke confrontation." The East Sea conflicts should be resolved by bilateral talks, Wang said.

But at the AMM-48 opening ceremony, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said complicated global issues including overlapping sovereignty claims cannot be resolved by a single nation. A draft joint-statement of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers underlines the need for unity, particularly in dealing with regional peace, security, stability, and disputes under international law.

The Malaysian Prime Minister’s speech and the draft joint-statement of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers show that Malaysia and ASEAN reject China’s desire not to discuss East Sea issues at AMM-48. The consensus illustrates ASEAN unity, suggesting a combined power to meet common challenges.

China dances away from COC

China has expressed uneasiness at ASEAN’s consensus. In May, when the 26th ASEAN Summit issued a statement on the East Sea, China immediately had a strong reaction, saying it denounced efforts by other countries to harm the relations between China and the 10 ASEAN nations. Prior to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said the meeting should not discuss East Sea issues.

Faced with ASEAN’s consensus and strong criticism from other ASEAN partners, China said prior to AMM-48 that it has stopped its reclamation efforts in the East Sea and is committed to increased consultation with ASEAN on the COC. The public is hoping for positive signs from ARF-22.