President Obama held a two days summit of leaders of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Washington, DC. The summit was to pursue US interests in Asia pivot as well as the transpacific trade agreement. ASEAN countries comprise of countries that were previously labelled as Asian tigers including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam.
The summit seems to have ignited conflicting comments from US and Chinese sides. US claims to be a pacific power with genuine interest in the freedom of navigation in South China Seas. On the other hand China considers it US interference in its own backyard and proposes a bilateral solution to these territorial disputes. The ASEAN countries have maintained their independence and the communique demands centrality of ASEAN to solve the issues.
Chinese official Xinhua news agency reported that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed that the issues “must be managed peacefully to preserve regional stability and security.” Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he believed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) is a useful mechanism to gain trust among the concerned parties and bring about peaceful solutions to disputes.
China supports the ASEAN policy of centrality and considers interference from US detrimental to the economic and security balance of the region. US media reported yesterday that China has installed missile batteries in some of the South Asian islands that are disputed territory. China on the other hand considers it a sovereign right to defend itself against any possible aggression from a hostile power.
The ASEAN summit that just concluded in Washington DC discussed all these regional matters but apparently did not arrive at any conclusion and pursues a status quo.