South China Sea dispute and ASEAN’s role

08/07/2014


ASEAN is the only regional organization in Southeast Asia with 10 official members. In the South China Sea dispute, there are 5 member states of ASEAN participating as claimants of islands and overlapping seas: Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
The South China Sea has been mentioned often in forums of world politics and appears to be one of the most important issues on international community’s agenda. South China Sea(SCS) dispute is a dispute that comprises several states in eastern part of Asia, such as China, Taiwan, and some ASEAN member states which are Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei Darussalam, related to their legal claims over Spratly, Paracel, and the other islands in the SCS. This dispute was originally indicated by Chinese unilateral claims over its territorial sovereignty in theSCS through issuing a territorial map marked with nine dotted lines which reflected whole area of SCS.This map issuance instantly elicit a reaction from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwansince Chinese claims over it territorial jurisdiction disrupted national sovereignty and exclusive economiczone (EEZ) over those countries concerned.
Managing the situation in the South China Sea has proven to be difficult. In this context the role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can play is of particular interest. Some of the complexities involved were displayed at the recent ASEAN meetings held in Cambodia.
Since the early 1990s ASEAN has sought to pursue a proactive role in response to developments in the South China Sea. ASEAN has done so through its statements relating to developments in the area, through its dialogue with China, and through the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) which held its first working meeting in 1994.
Among the ASEAN statements the most important one is the “ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea” issued in 1992. The Declaration’s main feature is its emphasis on the necessity to resolve the disputes by peaceful means without resort to the use of force. Furthermore, all parties concerned are urged to exercise restraint in order to create a positive climate for the eventual resolution of all disputes in the area.
It has chosen to mediate the conflict by leading disputants to a solution in peaceful ways (workshops, negotiations, etc.). Annual meetings about this issue have been opened since 1990 to 2001. ASEAN + 1 is an attempt of ASEAN members to include China, the biggest claimant of the dispute, into the search for a real solution. Many technical work groups and biodiversity projects aimed at bringing different sides to one table. It seems to be the proper method which suits ASEAN’s capacity. The most positive result achieved by ASEAN was the reaching of a common code of conduct between the claimants ―“Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” (DOC) ― in 2002  where all countries involved agreed to deal with the problem in peace and not to employ any coercive or hostile behavior. ASEAN called for legal solutions based on UNCLOS (1982) – United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
It is true that ASEAN is actively raising its voice in the area of conflict resolution. No matter how its efforts have been judged, ASEAN’s active role in conflict resolution is worthy of recognition. ASEAN has actively put itself in a position to mediate, preventing hostilities occur in area. This is a noticeable change in its pattern of behavior.
Regarding conflict management in the South China Sea, ASEAN has had several approaches. It has attempted to resolve the problem in a legal manner, mediation facilitation (workshops), and a corporation project through the Joint Development proposal. These efforts have increased ASEAN’s prestige because it has been showing the activeness, sensitivity, and dynamism in security issues.
ASEAN is also working to balance different powers by establishing connections with not only one major power. This balancing ability of ASEAN secured small countries from domination of China ― the giant directly involved the dispute. However, ASEAN has been facing many challenges which resulted from both external and intra-ASEAN factors. These are also what limited ASEAN’s role in the South China Sea.
In order to effectively implement its duty, ASEAN needs to be successful in two points. First of all, it needs to improve its internal solidarity by establishing more ties among member states not only in economic, politic, diplomatic but also in the military aspect. The next thing ASEAN needs to do is balancing power. Using the U.S.’s military presence to constrain China’s ambition, taking advantage of Japanese’s assistance to be independent economically, and welcoming Indian and Russian support for its members’ military modernization are possible vehicles for ASEAN to secure  peace in the South China Sea and improve its influence.
Recent development of the dispute has raised a new concern regarding the South China Sea’s stability. December 2007, China established the city of Sansha as the administration of Spratly and Paracel islands.
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All comments [ 10 ]


Vân Nhàn 8/7/14 21:47

It's the time ASEAN needs to show their roles and contribute to settle the South China Sea disputes peacefully.

Quân Hoàng 8/7/14 21:53

ASEAN is the biggest regional organization not just in the Southeats Asia but in the Pacific Asia, it needs to prove itself now.

Lê Tín 8/7/14 21:58

Vietnam also needs to show it's roles in ASEAN too.

Huy Lâm 8/7/14 22:00

In this context the role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can play is of particular interest, managing the situation in the South China Sea has proven to be difficult.

Huy Quốc 8/7/14 22:03

he ongoing dispute over the South China Seas carried into the 24th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in the Myanmar.

Quốc Cường 8/7/14 22:04

ASEAN Foreign Ministers expressed their serious concerns over the on-going developments in the South China Sea, which have increased tensions in the area.

Hoàng Lân 8/7/14 22:06

Myanmar so far has acquitted itself quite well as ASEAN chair. It has come under intense Chinese pressure to toe the line on the South China Sea, but Myanmar – as ASEAN Chair – is acting according to the current consensus.

Phạm Hiếu 8/7/14 22:08

ASEAN needs to do is balancing power, using the U.S.’s military presence to constrain China’s ambition, taking advantage of Japanese’s assistance to be independent economically, and welcoming Indian and Russian ones.

Hùng Quân 8/7/14 22:11

ASEAN will be united against China, I think so!

Quốc Kiên 8/7/14 22:14

Regarding conflict management in the South China Sea, ASEAN has had several approaches. It has attempted to resolve the problem in a legal manner, mediation facilitation, and a corporation project.

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