Posts Tagged ‘Association of Southeast Asian Nations’

U.S. Pressure on North Korea’s Global Ties Bears Fruit

October 9, 2017

Campaign to close Pyongyang’s embassies and curb its business activities world-wide has led more than 20 nations to restrict operations

WASHINGTON—Over 20 nations have curbed the diplomatic or business operations of the North Korean government following a more-than-yearlong effort by the State Department, an indication of the kind of behind-the-scenes pressure the U.S. is using to tackle an emerging nuclear standoff.

U.S. officials have asked countries to shut down businesses owned by the North Korean government, remove North Korean vessels from ship registries, end flights by the country’s national air carrier and expel its ambassadors. At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit earlier this year, U.S. diplomats made sure North Korea couldn’t secure any bilateral meetings.

Mexico, Peru, Spain and Kuwait all expelled their North Korean ambassadors after the U.S. warned that Pyongyang was using its embassies to ship contraband and possibly weapons components in diplomatic pouches and earn currency for the regime. Italy became the latest country to do so on Oct. 1.

Kuwait and Qatar, among other countries, have agreed to reduce the presence of North Korean guest workers, according to U.S. officials and people familiar with the matter.

The campaign abroad is intensifying as the Trump administration adopts stricter sanctions at home, and the United Nations pursues enforcement of its tightest sanctions on Pyongyang yet. The talks are also a contrast to the heated exchanges between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Mr. Trump, who has issued a series of vague threats of possible military action, saying diplomacy has failed.


  • Kim Jong Un Defends Nuclear Program

The latest threat came in a Twitter message Saturday from the president. “Sorry, but only one thing will work,” Mr. Trump wrote. On Thursday, he said a White House meeting with military leaders represented “the calm before the storm.” The White House refused to clarify either remark.

Asked on Sunday what the president meant in his Twitter message, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on NBC that what Mr. Trump “is clearly telegraphing—and this should not be news to anybody—is that military options are on the table with North Korea. They absolutely are.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), by contrast, said diplomacy was the only option for curtailing North Korea’s nuclear program. He said the U.S. should encourage China to step up pressure on Pyongyang.

“There is no viable military option. It’d be horrific,”’ Mr. Johnson, chairman of the Senate’s homeland security committee, said on CNN.

The previous weekend, Mr. Trump tweeted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time” by exploring the possibility of negotiations with North Korea. Mr. Tillerson days later held an unusual, unscheduled news conference to deny reports that he had considered resigning.

This photo released on Sunday, a day after it was taken, by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows the nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un, center, at the Second Plenum of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang. Photo: KCNA/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The U.S. diplomats, pursuing a quieter campaign alongside U.N. sanctions and talks with China, have been approaching nations as big as Germany and as small as Fiji with highly specific requests, sometimes based on U.S. intelligence, to shut down North Korea’s foreign links.

For example, a U.S. official said, the State Department flagged a North Korean hostel operating in the center of Berlin that they said was sending currency back to the Kim regime. In May, Germany announced it was closing the hostel.

U.S. diplomats asked Fiji to inform the U.N. that as many as 12 North Korean vessels were operating under the Fijian flag without permission, according to a State Department spokesman.

The idea, according to U.S. officials, is to show Mr. Kim that, so long as he seeks missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, he will find no refuge from Washington’s pursuit.

U.S. policy makers, led by Mr. Tillerson, have said they hope that Mr. Kim eventually will conclude his program comes at too high a cost to his regime and his nation a nd enter disarmament talks.

The likelihood of success has become a matter of debate. The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that no amount of pressure would convince Mr. Kim to disarm because the North Korean leader sees the nuclear and missile program as his regime’s ticket to survival, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said at a recent hearing.

“Tillerson’s working against—I applaud what he’s done, but he’s working against the unified view of our intelligence agencies, which say there’s no amount of pressure that can be put on them to stop,” Mr. Corker said.

Susan Thornton, the State Department’s top diplomat overseeing the pressure campaign, said at the hearing that the department’s efforts were testing the intelligence community’s assessment and added China’s position was slowly shifting, viewing North Korea as more of a liability than an asset. “I think Secretary Tillerson has made a lot of progress on that front,” she said.

Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, has said that new pressure tactics need time to work, but that North Korea eventually will lack the resources to run its missile program.

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, shared Sen. Corker’s skepticism at the recent hearing. “You’re all, in your own way, doing that which is strategically necessary in your own lane; and yet we have an objective that may not be achievable at all.”

Many U.S. officials believe Washington must pursue a pressure campaign, even if it ultimately fails, because it represents the best chance of a peaceful solution. The White House has said it backs State Department efforts to squeeze Pyongyang, while opposing negotiations.

The pressure campaign has become a cornerstone of Mr. Tillerson’s policy on North Korea. He often requests that his staff provide him with “specific asks” he can make on North Korea when meeting with counterparts from around the world, according to U.S. officials. Mr. Tillerson has made those requests in nearly all bilateral meetings in recent months and has received weekly updates on the results.

Mr. Tillerson has elevated the campaign, which began in early 2016 after the Obama administration saw Mr. Kim make a significant advance in his drive for an intercontinental nuclear weapon, according to current and former U.S. officials.

State Department officials then drew up a detailed spreadsheet that listed all of North Korea’s known political, economic and military interests around the world—diplomatic missions, cargo ships, guest worker contingents, military relationships and more, a former U.S. official said. The document functioned as a “to do” list of entities to target for closure.

The U.S. diplomats began coordinating on roughly a weekly basis with South Korea and on a monthly basis with Japan, mapping out a strategy and comparing notes, according to the former official.

Initially, the U.S. diplomats faced resistance. Some countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, expressed skepticism about the American requests and saw little need to curtail their links with Pyongyang, current and former U.S. officials said.

But as North Korea exhibited increasingly flagrant behavior this year—assassinating Mr. Kim’s half-brother in the Kuala Lumpur airport, firing its first intercontinental ballistic missiles and testing what many U.S. officials suspect was its first hydrogen bomb—countries that had previously resisted became more cooperative, the officials said.

Myanmar, which U.S. diplomats have been pushing to cut military-to-military ties with North Korea and stop weapons deals with Pyongyang, has resisted the U.S. entreaty.

Kyaw Zeya, permanent secretary for Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the country had ordinary ties with North Korea and no special military ties. Myanmar has responded to the U.S. entreaties by asking Washington for evidence of any military dealings, the permanent secretary said.

Similarly, Chile said it has declined to reclassify its wine as a luxury export or to cut diplomatic relations with North Korea, despite personal requests made by Vice President Mike Pence on a recent trip to the country.

—Myo Myo contributed to this article.

Write to Paul Sonne at and Felicia Schwartz at

Opinion: Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China

October 6, 2017

By Ralph Jennings

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Activists chant anti-China slogans during a rally in Hanoi on March 14, 2016, to mark the anniversary of a 1988 battle in the Spratly Islands, a rare act of protest over an issue that has come to dog relations between Hanoi and Beijing. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

China has stoked many of Asia’s maritime sovereignty disputes by reclaiming land to build artificial islands and, in some cases, adding military infrastructure to those islands. To rub in the message that it has the more power than anyone else in the widely disputed, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, the Beijing government glibly sails coast guard ships around the exclusive ocean economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Off its east coast, China routinely passes boats through a tract of sea disputed with, and controlled by Japan.

But let’s linger on another country for a second – Vietnam.

A fisherman and his son try to fix the roof of their boat on Thuan Phuoc port in prior to the next fishing trip on August 30, 2016 in Danang, Vietnam. (AFP/Getty image)

The country with a 3,444 kilometer-long coastline shows every sign of being Asia’s second most expansion-minded maritime power after China.

Here’s the evidence:

  • Last year the American Center for Strategic & International Studies said Vietnam had landfilled more South China Sea islets than China itself, though China’s method was probably more destructive. It holds 21 tiny islets in the Spratly archipelago, more than any of its regional rivals.


  • This year Vietnam renewed a deal with the overseas subsidiary of state-owned Indian oil firm ONGC to explore for fossil fuels under the ocean floor. Beijing will likely bristle at this move because it too claims waters off the Vietnamese east coast as part of its position that 95% of the whole sea is Chinese, but Vietnam has not backed down. In any case, India is Vietnam’s new best friend — to wit its call in July to step up a year-old partnership.


  • Vietnamese fishing boats, a large share of the 1.72 million that trawl the South China Sea, have been sent off by other coastal states and as far off as Indonesia and Thailand, scholars who follow the maritime dispute say. Two Vietnamese fishermen turned up dead 34 kilometers from the Philippines last month in what’s believed to be an incident involving an official vessel from Manila. Fish were 10% of Vietnam’s export revenues as of a decade ago, the University of British Columbia says in this study. “Fish stocks in Vietnam have been depleted, so they have to venture further away to continue their business,” says Le Hong Hiep, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “As they venture further away it’s easier for them to get into other countries’ waters and they commit illegal fishing.”


  • Vietnam protests when Taiwan makes its presence felt on Taiping Island. Although Taiping is the largest feature in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago, Taiwan has little clout in the bigger sovereignty dispute and has even used its Taiping facilities to help Vietnamese fishermen in distress. But the Vietnamese foreign ministry formally protested at least once in 2016 and again in March this year when Taiwan had a live-fire military drill. “They said Taiwan’s activities violated its sovereignty,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Whenever Taiwan makes a move, Vietnam always protests. It’s been like that all along. Vietnam is pretty assertive.”


  • China has to watch it, too. China is using economic incentives to get along with other South China Sea states but things keep going wrong with Vietnam. In June, a senior Chinese military official cut short his visit to Vietnam as the host was looking for oil in disputed waters, and in August foreign ministers from the two countries cancelled a meeting – presumably over their maritime disputes — on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event.

Vietnam’s maritime muscle makes a lot of sense. The country of 93 million people is on the move economically, dependent on the sea. Nationalism is growing, too, and citizens believe the government should gun hard for its claims.


 No automatic alt text available.
China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.



Malaysia Calls The Philippines Statement on Violence Against Rohingya Muslim in Myanmar a ‘Misrepresentation of Reality’

September 25, 2017
Rohingya Muslims, who travelled from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms out to collect food items distributed by aid agencies near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. Bangladesh has been overwhelmed with more than 400,000 Rohingya who fled their homes in the last three weeks amid a crisis the U.N. describes as ethnic cleansing. Refugee camps were already beyond capacity and new arrivals were staying in schools or huddling in makeshift settlements. AP/Dar Yasin

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 10:51 a.m.) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano over the weekend released a statement as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the crisis in Rakhine state without referring to violence against Rohingya Muslims.

Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation and a member of ASEAN, disassociated itself from the ASEAN chairperson’s position and described it as a “misrepresentation of the reality of the situation.”

Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Anifah Aman, in a strongly worded disavowal, said Cayetano’s statement “was not based on consensus.”

“The statement (of Cayetano) also omits the Rohingyas as one of the affected communities,” Aman said in a statement on Sunday.

Before the chair’s statement, ASEAN has kept mum on the crisis involving Bangladesh and member-state Myanmar. Even rarer still is Malaysia’s public opposition in the Southeast Asian bloc known for its “flexible engagement,” “non-interference” and consensus.

Alan Peter Cayetano, the Philippines’ foreign affairs secretary, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s 72nd session on Sept. 23, 2017 in New York City. UN/Cia Pak

The DFA secretary’s statement issued on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sunday, condemned the attacks against Myanmar security forces and acts of violence “which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of thousands.” It also expressed support for Myanmar’s government “in its effort to bring peace, stability, rule of law” in the area.

“The Foreign Ministers acknowledged that the situation in Rakhine State is a complex inter-communal issue with deep historical roots. They strongly urged all the parties involved to avoid actions that will further worsen the situation on the ground,” it reads.

Cayetano’s statement, issued supposedly on behalf of the 10-member bloc, clearly sidesteps authorities’ crimes against the minority Rohingya people in a crisis the United Nations’ human rights chief earlier this month called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi told the Jakarta Post that the ASEAN chairperson’s statement was a result of a closed-door meeting of foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN assembly on Saturday.

She described the decision of coming up with a statement from an informal gathering “quite out of the ordinary.”

The chair’s statement, she said, was expected to reflect the views of each ASEAN member-state. The final wording was left to Cayetano and no longer needed consensus of the ministers, Retno was quoted as saying.

She also offered to Cayetano Indonesia’s four-point recommendation to end the Rakhina crisis: Restoring stability and security; maximum restraint and non-violence; protection of all persons regardless of race and religion; and the importance of immediate access to humanitarian assistance.

Only the last element in Indonesia’s recommendation—that of access to humanitarian assistance—was included in Cayetano’s final statement.


Aman, Cayetano’s Malaysian counterpart, said Malaysia’s concerns were not reflected in the ASEAN chairman’s statement.

He said that while Malaysia condemned the attacks against Myanmar security by the Rohingyan army, it called the subsequent clearance operations by Myanmar authorities “disproportionate” as it has lead to deaths of civilians and displacement of Rohingyas.

“We express grave concerns over such atrocities which have unleashed a full-scale humanitarian crisis that the world simply ignore but be compelled to act upon,” Aman said.

More than 400,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh to escape murder and destruction of villages in the Western state of Rakhine.

The Rohingyas, a stateless Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have long experience persecutions as they are believed to be illegal immigrants.

Malaysia also urged Myanmar to end the violence and resolve the refugee problem.

“Viable and long-term solutions to the root causes of the conflict must be found in order for the Rohingyas and the affected communities to be able to rebuild their lives.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been facing international pressure for her handling of the violence against Rohingyas.

The Nobel Peace Laureate, in a televised address, rejected international condemnation of the violence and insisted that “more than half” of Rohingya villages remain intact.

Malaysia’s Disavows ASEAN Statement on Myanmar, Revealing Cracks in ASEAN Facade

September 25, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR — Dissent surfaced again in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after Malaysia disavowed a statement issued by the bloc’s chairman, the Philippines, as misrepresenting “the reality” of an exodus of 430,000 ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar.

The grouping of 10 nations in one of the world’s fastest growing regions has long struggled to reconcile conflicting interests in tackling issues such as China’s claims over the South China Sea and the crisis facing the Muslim Rohingya.

“The Philippines, as chair, tolerates the public manifestation of dissenting voices,” the Philippine foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Image may contain: 6 people, outdoor

Rohingya Muslims, who recently crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait for their turn to receive food aid near Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. AFP photo

The move showed a “new level of maturity” in pushing ASEAN’s principle of consensus when dealing with issues affecting national interests, it added.

Malaysia had made its position clear “in several ASEAN meetings” in New York, the ministry said, adding that it had to also take into account the views of other members, however.

On Sunday, Malaysia “disassociated itself” from the ASEAN chairman’s statement on the grounds that it misrepresented the “reality of the situation” and did not identify the Rohingya as one of the affected communities.

Myanmar objects to the term Rohingya, saying the Muslims of its western state of Rakhine state are not a distinct ethnic group, but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Senior diplomats and foreign ministers of ASEAN nations discussed the contents of the statement on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York before it was published, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Malaysian government sources said.

No consensus was reached by the ASEAN foreign ministers, however, said two Malaysian government officials aware of the discussions.

The chairman’s statement released by the Philippines did not reflect Malaysia’s concerns, said one of the officials, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Malaysia has objected once before to a similar statement on the crisis in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, but Sunday’s response was unexpected, as the grouping has an overriding policy of non-interference in domestic matters.

Myanmar must halt “atrocities which have unleashed a full-scale humanitarian crisis,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman urged on Sunday.

“Viable and long-term solutions to the root causes to the conflict must be found,” he said in a statement.

Image may contain: 1 person

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman


Malaysia’s dissent, however, only reflects strained ties in ASEAN, said Shahriman Lockman, a senior analyst with the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in the country’s capital.

“What’s truly exceptional here is not Malaysia’s move to dissociate itself from the statement,” he told Reuters. “It’s the failure of the Philippines to attempt to reflect the views of all ASEAN member states.”

In the statement, the foreign ministers condemned the attacks on Myanmar’s security forces and “all acts of violence which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of large numbers of people”.

More than 400 people have died and 430,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine, where an Aug. 25 attack on military and police outposts by Rohingya militants provoked a military offensive the United Nations calls “ethic cleansing”.

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Praveen Menon in Kuala Lumpur, Manuel Mogato in the Philippines; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Trump seen eying Japan visit in early November before stops in Vietnam, Philippines, China

September 13, 2017


U.S. President Donald Trump plans to pay his first visit to Japan in early November for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a diplomatic source said Tuesday.

The two governments are arranging the trip as part of what will be Trump’s first trip to Asia since taking office in January. The Japan trip will precede his planned visits to Vietnam and the Philippines for regional summits later in November, the source said.

Trump also plans to visit China for talks with President Xi Jinping. It is not immediately known whether Trump will visit South Korea as part of the Asian tour, according to the source.

During planned meetings with Abe and Xi, Trump is expected to focus on North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons threats, as well as bilateral economic issues such as ways to reduce Washington’s trade deficits with the two countries.

Separately, Trump plans to meet with Abe next week in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, at which they are likely to coordinate the planned Japan trip by Trump, according to the source.

Trump is scheduled to visit Vietnam for a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the Philippines for Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related summits in November.

During the first Abe-Trump summit in February in Washington, Trump accepted Abe’s invitation to pay an official visit to Japan this year.

ASEAN Makes Free Trade Deal With Hong Kong

September 9, 2017


© AFP/File | Ministers gather at the ASEAN meeting in Manila, where it was announced the group is to sign a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong in November

MANILA (AFP) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is to sign a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong in November, a Philippine government official said Saturday, following three years of talks.The Chinese special administrative region began free-trade negotiations with ASEAN in 2014, four years after the 10-nation economic bloc signed a similar trade deal with China in 2010.

Hong Kong also completed negotiations on an investment pact with ASEAN, said Philippine Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo.

“This would… send a positive signal for the international community of ASEAN’s resolute commitment to free trade and open markets,” Rodolfo told reporters.

He gave no details of the two agreements, which dealt with lowering import duties and cutting barriers to investment.

The agreement was reached as ASEAN economic ministers held a dialogue in Manila Saturday with Hong Kong government officials.

ASEAN, an economic bloc with a combined population of more than 600 million, is Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner after mainland China, according to the territory’s Trade and Industry Department website.

Hong Kong also acts as an important entrepot for trade between mainland China and ASEAN, an economic grouping made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It has remained a separate customs entity from mainland China since the city’s 1997 handover by Britain.

ASEAN members have established a free-trade area among themselves aiming to slash tariffs on most goods to zero and minimise non-tariff barriers. They have also signed free-trade deals with key trading partners such as Japan and China.

Rodolfo said the Hong Kong deals are to be signed in November, when the Philippines hosts an ASEAN summit.

ASEAN also has free-trade deals with India, Australia and New Zealand, and South Korea.


South China Sea: Vietnam takes up fight against China

August 15, 2017

Updated 11:32 PM ET, Mon August 14, 2017

Gregory B. Poling is director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and a fellow with the Southeast Asia Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. The opinions expressed here are solely his.

(CNN)When it comes to the disputed waters of the South China Sea, Vietnam’s leaders must feel very lonely these days.

Their fellow Southeast Asian claimants have either reversed course after years of escalating tensions with Beijing, or are keeping their heads down and letting Hanoi take up the fight.
In June, the Vietnamese government refused a Chinese demand to halt drilling by a subsidiary of Spanish company Repsol in an oil and gas block on Vanguard Bank—an area of the seabed that, as far as international law is concerned, is undisputedly Vietnam’s.
Now Vietnam could be on the hook to Repsol for hundreds of millions of dollars and it will have a hard time convincing other companies that any of its offshore contracts are a smart bet.
Repsol didn’t respond to a CNN request for comment, and Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said its oil and gas activities take place in waters entirely within its sovereign rights.

Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea
Military bases destroy reefs in S. China Sea 03:29

Deafening silence

How did Vietnam’s neighbors and the international community respond to this act of bullying by China? With deafening silence.
After pushing back against Chinese coercion for years, the Philippines has turned defeatist under the year-old government of President Rodrigo Duterte. Manila now appears eager to trade silence regarding its maritime claims for economic carrots from Beijing.
Malaysia, whose government is embroiled in corruption allegations and is barreling toward political crisis in the next general election, has little appetite for confrontation with China, an important benefactor.
And Indonesia is happy to occupy a middle ground, resisting at the margins when it comes to Chinese fishing encroachments in its waters, but uninterested in taking a more active role in the disputes.
Even Singapore, which remains deeply skeptical of China’s long-term intentions, is keeping its head down after being made a diplomatic punching bag by Beijing for its perceived support of the Philippines’ international arbitration victory last July.

Divisions on display


The divisions within Southeast Asia were on full display during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Minister’s Meeting earlier this month.
The Philippines, which hosted the summit, and Cambodia wanted to strip out anything that could irritate China. But Vietnam, smarting from the Vanguard Bank incident and convinced that China’s diplomatic softening over the previous year was just a delaying tactic, argued for stronger language.
Its tactics got it singled out in a China Daily editorial, which slammed Hanoi for “hypocritically trying to insert tough language criticizing China’s island building.”
Late on Sunday, the group reached a compromise that reinserted several points from previous ASEAN statements, including concern over recent land reclamation and militarization.
The comprise language in the communique was weaker that some previous statements, particularly the Sunnylands Declaration signed by ASEAN leaders and President Barack Obama in 2016.
But it was stronger than the group’s last statement, issued by Duterte following the ASEAN Summit in April, and helped avoid a repeat of the group’s 2012 debacle when then-host Cambodia blocked the release of any statement at all.

Modest victory


Still, Vietnam had won a modest victory and received a measure of support, even if grudgingly, from its neighbors. But the victory was short-lived.
The next day, Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano sided with China, telling the press,“I didn’t want to include it. It’s not reflective of the present position. They (China) are not reclaiming land anymore. So why will you put it again this year?”
It was a surprising break for an organization built on consensus. Here was the group’s chair publicly airing disagreements with the supposed consensus and appearing to back an outside power over a fellow ASEAN member.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrives in Manila on August 5, 2017 to attend the ASEAN meeting, where Vietnam urged other Southeast Asian nations to take a stronger stand against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea.

One-two punch


The one-two punch of China’s successful coercion over Vanguard Bank and ASEAN’s tattered consensus in Manila has left Hanoi exposed.
That isolation, which has been building for months, helps explain why Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich arranged a visit to Washington on the heels of the ASEAN meetings.
Following his meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis, the Pentagon announced that the two had “agreed to deepen defense cooperation, including by expanding maritime cooperation.” They even confirmed plans for a US aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam in the future—something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Hanoi remains convinced that China’s new charm offensive in the South China Sea is mostly smoke and mirrors—a conclusion strengthened by its recent experiences—and that sooner or later its neighbors will figure it out too. In the meantime, it will look for support wherever it can find it.


Includes video:


Image may contain: ocean, water and outdoor

Deepsea Metro I

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



Best search terms: ,  

No automatic alt text available.

China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: U.S. vows to challenge excessive sea claims

August 14, 2017
Saying it is not about any particular country or about making a political statement, the United States has stressed that it will invoke freedom of navigation and challenge excessive maritime claims anywhere in the globe. AP/Gregory Bull, File

MANILA, Philippines –  Saying it is not about any particular country or about making a political statement, the United States has stressed that it will invoke freedom of navigation and challenge excessive maritime claims anywhere in the globe.

In a recent press briefing in Washington, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region, including the South China Sea, on a daily basis under a comprehensive freedom of navigation program (FONOP).

She explained that the operations, conducted in accordance with international law, are meant to demonstrate that the US will continue to fly, sail and operate “wherever international law allows.”

“It’s true in the South China Sea; it’s true in other places around the world as well,” Nauert said.

A US Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation operation” on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea.

The USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief or Panganiban Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals.

Slamming the FONOP, the Chinese armed forces immediately sent naval ships to identify and verify the US warship and warned it to leave.

The United Nations-backed Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague had awarded the Philippines “sovereign rights” over Panganiban Reef off Palawan, based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The court ruling last year also invalidated China’s entire “nine-dash-line” claims over nearly all of the South China Sea. Beijing has ignored the ruling despite having ratified UNCLOS.

“We have a comprehensive freedom of navigation operations program, under which the US forces challenge excessive maritime claims around the globe to demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law. All nations —that is guaranteed to the United States and to other nations, as well,” Nauert added.

The FONOP, she said, is not about any one country and is not about making a political statement.

Last year, the US conducted these challenging excessive maritime claims in 22 different coastal states, including claims of allies and partners.

“The United States does these operations – the freedom of navigation operations – all around the world, many times of year,” Nauert said. “But this is nothing new. We’ve done it before; we’ll continue to do that.”

The US acknowledged on Thursday that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was under “tremendous” pressure on the South China Sea issues during the meetings in Manila last week but the regional bloc still “held on to its principles,” defeating attempts to drop “militarization,” “self-restraint” and “land reclamation” from the joint communiqué at the end of the milestone gathering.


 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



Best search terms: ,  

No automatic alt text available.

China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Analysis: US, allies slow Beijing’s South China Sea momentum

August 8, 2017
 August 8 at 8:14 AM
MANILA, Philippines — With the rise of a friendly leader in the Philippines, China has been spared a vocal adversary in the disputed South China Sea. In the process, it has gained momentum despite last year’s ruling by an arbitration tribunal that invalidated its expansive claims in the disputed waters.The rapprochement between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, defused a tense standoff between the Asian neighbors last year at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where China allowed Filipinos back to fish in October as years of thorny relations began to brighten.As President Donald Trump succeeded Barack Obama, who had challenged China’s assertive advances in the disputed sea, U.S. allies wondered if Trump would press America’s role as a regional counterbalance to the Asian powerhouse.

An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Australian and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the meetings in Manila of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. After their meeting, they issued a joint statement that blasted aggressive actions in the contested offshore territories — without, of course, naming Beijing directly, in line with diplomatic practice.

Nevertheless, China quickly voiced its irritation.

Its top diplomat said that while his country and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc “all fully recognized that the situation in the South China Sea is showing signs of changes and things are moving toward a positive direction,” some countries outside the region “are not seeing the positive changes” and are holding onto a mindset that “still stays in the past.”

After the Philippines, ASEAN’s leader this year, hosted the first of three major summits of the bloc in April, Duterte issued a traditional chairman’s statement that dropped mention of contentious issues, including Beijing’s island constructions in disputed reefs that China has lobbied to be struck out of such high-profile communiques. For China, it was seen as a diplomatic coup.

Closeted in their annual gathering in Manila over the weekend, however, ASEAN foreign ministers wrangled over the tone and wordings to depict the territorial rifts involving China and five other governments in their joint statement, which unlike the chairman’s statement is a negotiated document.

A draft of the ASEAN ministerial statement seen by The Associated Press before it was finalized and made public provided a glimpse of the closed-door intramurals, with Vietnam insisting on stronger language against China’s increasingly assertive actions in the busy waters.

Vietnamese diplomats, for example, insisted on mentioning concern over “extended construction” in the contested waters. Cambodia, a Chinese ally, deferred a vote on the inclusion of worries over militarization.

The Philippines was one of the countries that opposed mention of land reclamation and militarization in the communique, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano acknowledged in a news conference late Tuesday. China, he said, threatened to end future talks aimed at resolving conflicts if the arbitration ruling was mentioned in the statement.

“We won’t make any progress,” Cayetano said. “China already said if you talk about the arbitration award there is no talks.”

The protracted quibblings delayed the statement’s release, two Southeast Asian diplomats told the AP. When it was issued a day later, the joint ministerial statement — surprisingly — mentioned land reclamation and militarization and, to Beijing’s certain dismay, carried a vague reference to the arbitration ruling: “full respect for diplomatic and legal process.”

Wang played down mention of the issues, including land reclamation, that critics have used to refer to China’s massive island constructions in the South China Sea.

The next battle is over a proposed “code of conduct,” which aims to stymie aggressive behavior in the disputed sea, including new construction and military fortifications. China concluded talks with ASEAN for a negotiating framework for the nonaggression code, a baby step both sides hailed as a milestone.

Most ASEAN states, including the Philippines, back a legally binding code. China wants otherwise and opposes mention of the contentious issues, including arbitration and a conflict-resolution arrangement, given its preference to solve the conflicts through one-on-one negotiation with its smaller rival claimants. With ASEAN unable to do anything unless it acquiesces to China’s wishes, it relented to reach a consensus. Proponents of the rule of law were dismayed.

The agreed framework “is a lowest-common-denominator effort. It lacks teeth because China has opposed making it legally binding and refused to include a dispute settlement mechanism,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“With ASEAN itself divided and China’s sway over individual ASEAN members growing,” Glaser said, “this is an unsurprising even if disappointing development.”

Wang announced at the Manila meetings that China would be ready to start negotiations for the maritime code when its leader travels to the Philippines and joins ASEAN heads of state in November.

But first, he said, in a shot at the United States, the situation has to be stable and free of “major disruption from outside parties.”

The United States, Australia and Japan immediately weighed in, urging China and ASEAN “to ensure that the code of conduct be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law.”

“Outside parties like the U.S. will do what they think is needed to promote peace and stability in the region,” Glaser said. “If China opposes those actions, so be it.”


Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and suit

Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)


Best search terms: ,  

No automatic alt text available.

China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.