Disunity rules at Asean. Source: YouTube
Asean has failed to agree on maritime disputes in the South China Sea after the Cambodia delegation blocked any mention of this month’s international court ruling against Beijing in the bloc’s statement.
Foreign ministers meeting for the Asean summit in Vientiane discussed the UN’s Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of the Philippines earlier this month.
The Hague ruling rejected Beijing’s claims to around 90 per cent of the sea, adding that Chinese development in the South China Sea was environmentally unsustainable.
China rejected the case as a farce.
Diplomatic sources said the Philippines and Vietnam both wanted the statement issued by Asean’s foreign ministers after their meeting to refer to the ruling and the need to respect international law.
Cambodia reportedly opposed the proposed wording, throwing the group into confusion, repeating its 2012 veto of a united Asean stance.
Cambodia is subservient to China’s will and says the dispute should be settled bilaterally.
At a special meeting with China in Kunming in June, the rifts within Asean were exposed after it withdrew a communiqué containing strong language on China’s expansionism, after Beijing rallied its Asean allies to block it.
“We are still working on it,” Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. Jakarta had been neutral in the dispute until Chinese advances started to threaten its territory near Borneo.
Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon declined to comment on his country’s position on Sunday.
“We have been here before and I hope they can solve it,” said an envoy from Asean’s Secretariat in Indonesia. “It is the same story again, a repeat of the meeting in 2012.”
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US Secretary of State John Kerry are due to attend the conference and address the issue.
Wang said he thought the media focus on the South China Sea dispute was “very strange”.
The issue was “not a China-Asean issue”, Wang said.
Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumiko Kishida said he was ready to discuss the issue.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang dismissed Japanese involvement: “We urge Japan not to hype up and meddle in the South China Sea issue,” he said. “Japan is not a concerned party in the South China Sea, and because of its disgraceful history is in no place to make irresponsible comments about China.”