Southeast Asia’s leaders to meet amid tensions


SEND-OFF RITES. President Aquino, accompanied by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Jessie Dellosa, troops the line at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal II in Pasay City on Saturday before leaving for Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to attend the Asean summit. Malacañang Photo

PHNOM PENH – Southeast Asian leaders will hold annual talks on Sunday that are set to focus on bruising territorial rows, a controversial pact on human rights and deadly ethnic unrest in Myanmar.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit is being held following months of acrimony within the 10-member bloc over how to handle disputes with China over competing claims to the strategically vital South China Sea.

The maritime tensions are expected to be high on the agenda at the summit in Cambodia, as well as two days of expanded talks starting on Monday that will include US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

After Southeast Asian foreign ministers met in Phnom Penh on Saturday to prepare for their leaders’ events, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said the bloc was determined to lower the diplomatic temperature with China.

“Both sides, all sides, are committed to communicate… to the global community that things are under control. We have differences but we can manage,” Surin told reporters.

As a confidence-building mechanism, he said ASEAN would propose to China that a hotline be set up to allow a direct line of communication in the event of incidents in disputed waters.

Rival claims to the South China Sea have for decades made the waterways, home to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and believed to sit atop vast natural resources, a potential military flashpoint.

China insists it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the sea, including waters close to the coasts of its Asian neighbours.

ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan, also have sometimes overlapping claims to the sea.

Tensions escalated this year amid complaints by the Philippines and Vietnam that China was becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claim to the sea, including by employing bullying diplomatic tactics.

An ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh ended in July without issuing a joint communique for the first time in the bloc’s 45-year history because of divisions over how to handle the South China Sea issue.

The Philippines and Vietnam had wanted the communique to make specific reference to their disputes with China.

But Cambodia, the host of the talks and a close China ally, blocked the moves.

While Surin insisted that tensions had eased since then, analysts said the presence of Obama and Wen at the two-day East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh starting on Monday risked inflaming the situation.

The East Asia Summit brings together the leaders of ASEAN, the United States, China, Japan, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Obama is likely to reiterate that the United States has a fundamental interest in freedom of navigation in the sea and emphasize the need for a code of conduct among rival claimants, according to analysts.

China has long insisted the United States has no right to comment on the dispute. Chinese vice foreign minister Fu Ying warned on Saturday that it did not want the South China Sea brought up at the East Asia Summit.

In one of the major set pieces on Sunday, ASEAN leaders are scheduled to endorse a pact they say will enshrine human right protections for the bloc’s 600 million people.

However the pact, drafts of which have been released to the media, has drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups which say it allows loopholes for governments.

ASEAN’s members have a wide range of political systems, from authoritarian regimes in Vietnam and Laos at one end of the spectrum to the freewheeling democracy of the Philippines at the other.

And even as the rights pact is signed, ASEAN leaders will on Sunday have to focus on violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine between Muslim and Buddhist communities that has left 180 dead since June.

Surin said ASEAN foreign ministers discussed the unrest on Saturday, with some expressing concern about the situation and whether it would impact the political transformation underway in Myanmar away from military rule.

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  • Albert Einstien

    pres pnoy please…claim spratly , panatag & sabah NOW…this is your perfect opportunity to DECLARE that those territories are philippine territories……today & tomorrow ……dont let these territories to be LOST during your WATCH….HISTORY will be UNKIND!

    • Flavio

      Clarify Sabah now ??? Are you crazy ? This will only muddle the issue of Scarborough Shoals aside from pushing aside some ‘allies’ I.e. Malaysia , Brunei in our dispute vs China. One battle at a time….

      • Albert Einstien

        nope em a PATRIOT…..ninoy aquino is a friend of malaysian leaders..that is why cory & noynoy/pnoy is NOT CLAIMING SABAH……besides it is NINOY aquino who exposed the PLAN of marcos to RECLAIM SABAH…..if we were not able to CLAIM our right to SABAH ASAP we will lose it by laches, waiver of right & extinctive  prescription…that is what MALAYSIANS are up to……CLAIM SABAH now!

      • Joseph Aquino

        Better change your handle to something appropriate on you.

  • patriot2008

    I am glad that China does not want the West Philippine sea issue mentioned at the East Asia Summit, as mentioned by Fu Ying. Because most definitely it will be mentioned as a matter of principle by no less than our President. Whatever your enemy does not want, that is what you should do. 

  • EdgarEdgar

    Our gay president and all his men. Picture perfect in their manly pose, albeit a little awkward for Noynoy. No wonder the Chinese and Mekong people are not taking us seriously. They can see through the weakness of our gay president, his weak knees, his weak head, his weak stomach and his weakness for men in uniform. And of course, his weakness for backdoor diplomacy. Let’s not expect too much from this ugly bald gay bachelor Noynoy whose sole pursuit in life is rectal gratification.

    • chingnarciso

      you said that the President of the Philippines is gay. How do you know that he is gay!!!

      • EdgarEdgar

        Noynoy’s questionable sanity and sexuality are covered by national secrecy act. That information will only become available to the public once the FOI bill is passed into law. Will you tell our president to certify the bill as urgent please?

      • Joseph Aquino

        You must be gay, you seem to know about gay guys.

        Reveal first where did you get the “information’ that PNoy is gay. You slander the person of the President behind anonymity. If Malacanang decides enough is enough, your real identity is easy to find.

        Your take on FYI is like what the denigrator of the late Michael Jackson was asking. They want Michael to show his penis in the court so that they can declare that it is the penis that Michael had when he purportedly abused the complainant.

  • Mang Teban

    We have to support our president, no matter what. It is a risk worth taking because it is the opportune time to have us heard by the world. We cannot claim our rights on the disputed shoals and islets west of the Philippines simply by making press statements or issuing weak pronouncements.

    I have to give encouragement the Philippine government to do what is necessary for there is no other time again like this. President Aquino has the duty to defend our territorial rights and borders. He is mandated to lead the country to protect what rightfully belongs to the Philippines. The history buffs cling on to what China has been misleading the world on its apparent right when it had preempted other nations with spurious maps and tales of adventure. Giving up the claim because of our smaller military power versus China is another disparity in argumentation. We cannot simply walk away and let China grab our shoals and islets reminiscent of its kleptomaniac personality as it had done with countries (Japan, Korea, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.) surrounding the hegemonic monster breathing fire.

    Sadly also, some jerks and morons only see the person in the president and not the nation’s patrimony and sovereignty endowed on the office of the president. The role of the president is to speak for the entire country. These few people do not seem to know the difference and attack at will only to sow malice and discontent.

  • AFPako

    E Pakita mo Noy ang pagka nerd mo .

  • Klepto

    Gud luck Mr President. Pakita mo sa buong mundo talino at galing ng mga pulitiko natin sa pag TSUPA ng uten. Pag may makita kang lider ng bansa na makapangyarihan, TSUPAIN mo kaagad uten niya. Pagtapos tuwad kayo para tirahin naman mga puwet niyo.

  • rodulio

    Still can’t do anything about China….just weak…

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