Cambodia Stops Any Decision On South China Sea

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday urged Japan not to intervene in the South China Sea issue.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks to Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-U.S.

In a joint communique released after their talks, the foreign ministers of ASEAN said only that they "remain seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments" in the South China Sea.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to media at a press conference during the 49th Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting.

Beijing's territorial claims to the Spratly Islands, known as Nansha Islands in China, which are believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves, run against those of the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. The statement did not mention China by name in referring to the developments.

Instead, the day after their one-day meeting in Vientiane, they stopped short of making a specific reference to the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Initially, the Philippines and Vietnam insisted that the regional group welcome the PCA judgement against China.

Following the release of the Joint Communique of the 49th Asean Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Vientiane, Dr Balakrishnan wrote on Facebook that he is "delighted" over how Asean demonstrated unity of goal by issuing a principled joint communique.

"And if the prescription is wrong it will not help cure any disease".

Thailand's foreign minister says he and his counterparts from nine other Southeast Asian countries did not discuss the contentious issue of China's expansionist moves in the South China Sea at an emergency meeting they had called to resolve a deadlock on the issue.

The contested sea, through which some $5 trillion in shipping passes annually, has been a source of increasing tension between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours as well as the United States.

"Both China and ASEAN believe this page should have been turned and temperature lowered", he said.

China has been accused of forging an alliance with smaller nations like Laos and Cambodia by promising economic aid.

With ASEAN operating on a consensus principle that effectively gives each country a veto power when forming a stand on various issues, regional experts are skeptical of a joint communique that would put strong language on maritime disputes.

"We further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation", it said. "It was always very doubtful that Asean would be able to close ranks and issue a joint statement in support of the ruling".

On the sidelines of a recent summit, China reportedly told the Philippines that Beijing was ready to negotiate if Manila ignored the ruling - an offer that the Philippine foreign minister roundly rejected.

The US says it takes no position on the territorial disputes but argues for free sea and air passage through what it considers worldwide waters.

Most members of the bloc want to keep pressure on China over its campaign of island building in the strategic waters.

The tribunal ruled China's claimed historical rights and nine-dash map had no legal basis.

  • Joey Payne