Coverage of how the ASEAN summit delegates handled/ are handling the South China Sea/ West Philippine Sea dispute this week is the “most interpreted” kind of reporting of an international conference; that is to say: the wires reported it today either as being “at the backburner” (CNN tv, Anna Corin), or that it would be “raised as a concern” (Agence France Presse), or that it was non-exixtent (XinHua news agency of China, the disagreement wasn’t mentioned at all in their news reports), or that the U.S. President waded right into the territorial row (AP).
The Associated Press has the most complete — or picturesque — account of, in terms of detail. Here’s a sample: “Alarmed, Aquino raised his hand, stood up and objected to Hun Sen’s statement,…” ”… It was a blunt gesture in the usually servile ambiance of the conservative bloc, an unwieldy collective of rigid, authoritarian regimes and nascent democracies.” “…After a brief lull, Hun Sen recovered…”
Clearly, China and its surrogate, Cambodia, tried to pull a fast one, and only the alertness of the Philippine team managed to block this maneuver by the host state, Cambodia (what else would you call it: maniobra! )The Philippine government may be slackening in its performance in the local front (rising criminality, breakdown of peace and order, increasing poverty, failure to arrest human rights violators, distribution of spoils to presidential kabarkadas, etc.), but on this one occasion, the Philippine contingent in Pnohm Penh was not sleeping on the job. Perhaps, credit should go….to the interpreter! Maybe it was the interpreter who made all the difference; he/ she must have heard the words “bilateral, ASEAN with China only” “Consensus na raw! Consensus ka dyan!” I’m being facetious. Pnoy (the Philippine president) did his job when he raised his hand and stood up to object.
and he was reported to have been suffering from allergic rhinitis at that time, and as of this writing. Perhaps, blockage of his nasal passage and difficulty in breathing raises his adrenalin. We might have found the right formula for the President. ( i’m kidding, allergic rhinitis deprives you of sleep, mine acts up in December; one over-compensates by being alert and… by poledancing during the Christmas party.) Get some rest, Mr. President; two days’ sleep na dirediretso dapat yan.
“Territorial row overshadows Obama’s Cambodia visit By Katie Hunt, for CNN November 20, 2012 — Updated 0840 GMT (1640 HKT)
“(CNN) — U.S. President Barack Obama met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday, the first top-level meeting between the two countries since the presidential election and a power transition in China.
“Obama was keen to put the focus on trade issues, and ignored questions on a bitter maritime dispute that overshadowed discussions on the first day of the summit on Monday.
“….. Obama and ASEAN leaders agreed to support the drafting of a regional code of conduct to manage disputes in the sea.
“Obama set to defy China over sea rows by Stephen Collinson | AFP News – 23 minutes ago
“US President Barack Obama was on Tuesday set to defy Beijing’s protests and use a summit to raise concerns over South China Sea rows that have sent diplomatic and trade shockwaves across the region.
“Obama planned to pressure China on the highly sensitive issue of a code of conduct that would govern behaviour in the contested waters, according to a senior aide to the president, Ben Rhodes.
“Chinese premier meets U.S. president on ties
“Phnom Penh, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao discussed bilateral relations with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday on the sidelines of the seventh East Asia Summit in Cambodia.
“… For his part, Obama said he is committed to working with China as U.S.-China cooperation is of vital importance to the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific and the world.
“Tensions loom as Barack Obama meets Japan, China leaders by Jeff Mason, Reuters
“In his first meeting with a Chinese leader since his re-election, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday Washington and its chief economic rival must work together to “establish clear rules of the road” for trade and investment.
“…Wen highlighted “the differences and disagreements between us” but said these could be resolved through trade and investment.
“….Obama is expected to raise Asia’s divisive territorial disputes in closed-door meetings later on Tuesday at the East Asia Summit, which also includes leaders from ASEAN, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
“Obama wades into thorny Asian territorial row. (philstar.com) | Updated November 20, 2012 – 2:25pm
“Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP) — President Barack Obama’s attendance at an annual summit of Southeast Asian leaders sets him right in the eye of the region’s most stormy dispute: the long-raging rivalry between China and five neighbors for control of strategic and resource-rich waters of the South China Sea.
“Neither the U.S. nor China is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but each has strong supporters in the 10-member group. ASEAN summit host Cambodia, an ally of China, has tried to shift the focus to economic concerns, but Beijing’s territorial disputes with countries including U.S. ally the Philippines have overshadowed discussions.
“The disagreement sparked a tense moment Monday at the summit when Philippine President Benigno Aquino III challenged Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had tried to cut off discussion of territorial disputes.
“An expanded meeting called the East Asia Summit involving all ASEAN countries and eight other nations, including China and the United States, will be held Tuesday in Phnom Penh.
“Obama was expected to reiterate during the summit that Washington takes no sides in the territorial disputes but will not allow any country to resort to force and block access to the South China Sea, a vital commercial and military gateway to Asia’s heartland. “Washington has also called for the early crafting of a “code of conduct” to prevent clashes in the disputed territories but it remains unclear if and when China would sit down with rival claimants to draft such a legally binding nonaggression pact.
“The potentially oil- and gas-rich South China Sea islands and waters are contested by China, Taiwan and four ASEAN members — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
“Vietnam and the Philippines, backed by Washington, have been raising the issue before major international forums, and want China to negotiate with the other claimants as a group. China wants one-on-one negotiations — which would give it advantage because of its sheer size and economic clout — and has warned Washington to stay away from an issue it says should not be “internationalized.”
“There have recently been several standoffs involving boats and other shows of force, particularly between China and the Philippines. The battle for ownership of the Spratly Islands in one section of the South China Sea has settled into an uneasy stand-off since the last fighting, involving China and Vietnam, that killed more than 70 Vietnamese sailors in 1988.
“But fears that the conflicts could spark Asia’s next war have kept governments on edge.
“The latest diplomatic confrontation occurred a few hours before Obama touched down on Monday in the Cambodian capital, when Hun Sen announced as he was closing a meeting that all ASEAN leaders have struck an agreement to limit discussions of the divisive issue within the 10-nation bloc’s talks with China. Alarmed, Aquino raised his hand, stood up and objected to Hun Sen’s statement, saying his country, which plans to bring the disputes before a U.N. tribunal, was not a party to any such agreement. It was a blunt gesture in the usually servile ambiance of the conservative bloc, an unwieldy collective of rigid, authoritarian regimes and nascent democracies.
“After a brief lull, Hun Sen recovered and said Aquino’s remarks would be reflected in the record of the meeting. Still, Cambodian and Chinese officials insisted that the agreement stood.
“An objection from the Philippines, or any ASEAN nation, ought to be enough to thrash any agreement because the bloc decides by consensus, meaning just one veto from any member kills any proposal.
“ “How can there be a consensus when two of us are saying we’re not with it? It was translated into a consensus without our consent,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters.
“The territorial conflicts have underscored a major ASEAN weak spot — the ease by which any member country can torpedo any plan through its consensual decision-making — as the bloc tackles ambitious dreams like a plan to turn the economically vibrant region of 600 million people into an E.U.-like community by 2015.
“Despite its shortcomings, ASEAN has loomed as a major battleground for influence in Asia, where Obama’s trip highlights an American pivot to the region following years of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. China, the Asian superpower, has acted to protect its home ground. ASEAN is clearly pinned in between.
“A more troubling diplomatic debacle over the territorial disputes erupted in July, when Cambodia failed to publicly issue a traditional after-conference communique after a foreign ministerial meeting — an embarrassing failure that was a first in the bloc’s 45-year history. Vietnam and the Philippines have insisted that the joint statement simply state that the South China Sea rifts were discussed, but Cambodia adamantly refused, echoing China’s line to keep a lid on public discussions of the disputes.
“Ernest Bower of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C., said the imbroglio in July showed that as long as any ASEAN country remains weak and vulnerable to muscling from a major power, the entire group could be compromised.
“ “ASEAN learned a hard lesson from the event: namely that they should never again allow a fellow ASEAN member country to feel so isolated, exposed or dependent on any foreign power that the country feels compelled to step beyond ASEAN protocols … in a way that damages the organization’s interests and profile,” Bower said.
“In the ongoing summit, Indonesia proposed an emergency hot line be established by China and rival nations to allow them to communicate and rapidly end any accidental clash that could get out of hand in the troubled waters.”