KUALA LUMPUR — The U.S. has kicked off a new exercise in the Western Pacific with participation of the maritime assets of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ASEAN Maritime Exercise (AUMX) began on Sunday at the Sattahip Naval Base, Thailand. Read More
While Southeast Asian nations take comfort from the Trump administration’s stated interest in the region, a Singapore-based international security expert said they still remain wary of the president turning their territorial disputes with China as a bargaining chip to pressure Beijing to rein in North Korea. Read More
An Arbitral Tribunal is expected to rule this month on a South China Sea territorial dispute between China and the Philippines, and the U.S. should be prepared to respond to any Chinese reaction, a think tank panel said today. Read More
A Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea would ratchet up regional tensions and be ignored by U.S. forces, said the head of the U.S. military forces in the Pacific during a press conference at the Pentagon on Thursday. Read More
A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) amphibious warship allegedly rammed two Vietnamese fishing vessels operating near the disputed Spratly Islands in July, according to local press cited in an Office of Naval Intelligence threat to shipping report. Read More
The head of U.S. naval forces in the Western Pacific said the U.S. would support an emerging plan to create multi-national patrols in the South China Sea that could bear similarities to anti-piracy patrols in the Strait of Malacca. Read More
China and the United States are competing for influence throughout Southeast Asia and Cambodia appears to be the latest battleground. In January, China stepped up its defense cooperation with Cambodia in a development that several regional analysts saw as an attempt to supplant the United States. One writer, for example, likened China’s initiative to a “tug-of-war” with the United States.
For government officials and regional analysts following the security dialogues in Phnom Penh last week (9–13 July) there was good news and bad news. The good news was that the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to the key elements of their Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea. The bad news was that the ASEAN foreign ministers could not agree on the wording of the South China Sea section of a joint communiqué.
Good News: ASEAN Agrees on a Code of Conduct
In 2002, ASEAN and China failed to reach an agreement on a COC in the South China Sea. As a compromise they signed off on a nonbinding political statement that took the form of the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). The signatories agreed to work toward the eventual adoption of a COC.
Implementation of the DOC languished for nine years until China, in an about face, resumed discussions with ASEAN and agreed on guidelines to implement the DOC. China’s change of mind was in reaction to pressure from the international community, led by the United States, criticizing China’s assertive actions against the Philippines and Vietnam. The agreement on the DOC guidelines prompted ASEAN to move on to the next phase—drafting a COC for the South China Sea.
ASEAN has not yet released the official text of its COC. But a detailed outline provided to the author shows it to contain three parts. The first is a preamble listing agreements between ASEAN and China obligating them to settle their disputes peacefully in accordance with international law, including the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).