No Asean unity in sea row with China


President Benigno Aquino III. AP

PHNOM PENH—President Benigno Aquino on Monday said the Philippines would keep speaking out on the global stage over its territorial dispute with China, as an effort by Southeast Asian nations to forge a united stand fell apart.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) decided on Sunday to ask China to start formal talks “as soon as possible” on crafting a legally binding code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) aimed at preventing violence over disputed territories.

But the effort at speaking as one proved short-lived, with the Asean leaders feuding on Monday over how to handle the territorial disputes between China and four of the bloc’s members—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Asean leaders, holding their 21st summit here, had hoped to present a united front on the West Philippine Sea territorial rows as they hosted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and US President Barack Obama for annual talks.

But that effort broke down just before the Asean leaders were scheduled to meet Wen, amid divisions between Chinese ally Cambodia and the Philippines.

Cambodia, chair of this year’s summit, said on Sunday that Asean leaders had agreed not to “internationalize” the disputes and would confine negotiations to those between the bloc and China.

The apparent deal would have been a victory for China, which has long insisted that it should only negotiate directly with rival countries and that the Philippines should not seek support from the United States.

But President Aquino on Monday publicly rebuked Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, telling his fellow leaders no such consensus had been reached and he would continue to speak out on the global stage.

“The Asean route is not the only route for us,” Mr. Aquino said at the close of the 15th Asean-Japan Summit, one of the side meetings of the Asean Summit.

He took exception to Hun Sen’s remarks that the Asean countries had agreed to negotiate the West Philippine Sea disputes within an “Asean-China” framework.

National interest

Mr. Aquino interpreted Hun Sen’s statement to mean the exclusion of other international avenues to resolve the territorial rows, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), a Malacanang official told Manila reporters here, explaining what happened during the Asean meeting with Japan.

“As a sovereign state, it is our right to defend our national interest,” Mr. Aquino said during his intervention as Hun Sen was bringing the Asean-Japan summit to a close.

“Hun Sen was about to finish his concluding remarks when President Aquino raised his hand and he made a significant intervention,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma told a briefing for Manila reporters at the Landscape Hotel here.

Reading from his notes, he quoted Mr. Aquino as saying, “There were several views expressed yesterday on Asean unity [that] we did not realize [would] be translated [into] an Asean consensus.”

“For the record this was not our understanding. The Asean route is not the only route for us. As a sovereign state, it is our right to defend our national interest,” the President said.

“The chair, Prime Minister Hun Sen, duly acknowledged the intervention, and he said this will be reflected in the record of the meeting,” Coloma said.

Coloma said Mr. Aquino was listening to Hun Sen’s closing message when Hun Sen began wrapping up the proceedings. At one point Hun Sen began to talk about Asean having reached a consensus on  putting discussions within an “Asean-China framework.”

“It was at this point that I noticed the President raised his hand for his intervention,” Coloma recalled.

Inutile accords

Coloma said giving a specific focus on Asean and China would render inutile existing agreements, from the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a nonbinding document to govern the talks, to the Unclos, on which the Philippines’ territorial claims were mostly based.

“So if the mention of international law or of the UN is already omitted and there is specific focus on simply Asean and China, then that changes the whole context,” he said.

“The President’s statement speaks for itself. It  points out that the statement of the chairman is not consistent with his own recollection or with his own understanding of the context of what has been discussed so far and he stated it plainly and simply.”

But Coloma said the President’s position should not be interpreted as going against the principle of Asean unity.

“To state that there should be Asian-Asean unity does not preclude any country or any member state from asserting its national interest,” he said.

Coloma said the President felt the need to assert the Philippines’ sovereignty as enshrined in the Constitution.

“We are affirming our belief that this matter should be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law, including Unclos. It’s important in a forum to affirm and reaffirm these principles because it involves an issue of sovereignty,” he said.

PH concurrence

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, in a Nov. 18 letter addressed to Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign  Minister Hor Namhong, said the Philippines concurred with the principle of Asean unity.

“It is, nevertheless, the inherent right of every sovereign state to defend its national interest when deemed necessary,” Del Rosario said.

His letter referred to a call by Cambodia for manifestations of Asean unity among the Asean leaders during their retreat on Sunday afternoon.

Coloma said the Philippines was not alone in raising China-related issues at the meetings.

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda admitted his country’s relation with China was “difficult” at present, but “the two countries are constantly communicating and are determined to maintain peace and stability,” Coloma said.

In the same summit, Vietnam also raised the implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the six-point principle, and the early formulation of the code of conduct, Coloma said.

He added that Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung underscored the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea and the peaceful resolution of the dispute through Unclos.

Monday’s feud echoed the unprecedented infighting at an Asean foreign ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh in July, which ended for the first time in the bloc’s 45-year history without a joint communiqué.

The Philippines and Vietnam had wanted the communiqué to make specific reference to their disputes with China. But Cambodia, the host of the July talks and China’s close ally, blocked the moves.

China, which claims nearly the entire West Philippine Sea, has long resisted discussion of the territorial disputes on international forums, insisting on one-one-one negotiations with its rivals.

Hun Sen raised the proposed talks on the code of conduct with Wen on Sunday night, but China appeared to give no ground.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang told reporters after the meeting that China wanted to continue with the current framework of lower-level negotiations that was agreed on a decade ago.

President Aquino raised the Philippines’ concerns over the West Philippine Sea in the meeting between Asean leaders and Wen on Monday, Qin said.

“It was only mentioned in general terms by the Philippines,” he said, insisting that all other countries were only interested in economic issues.

“No other country talked about it. All countries are interested in economic growth, sustainable, balanced development in this region,” he said.

Temperatures could rise again later Monday when Obama joins the East Asia Summit, a two-day event also involving the leaders of Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia.

Obama has previously angered China, and emboldened the Philippines, by calling for the rival claimants to agree on a legally binding code of conduct to govern their actions in the West Philippine Sea. With reports from AP and AFP

Originally posted: 4:42 pm | Monday, November 19th, 2012

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  • Carlos_Iho

    that useless country which is cambodia does not even have any part of their territory touching the west phil. sea and they speak with a loud voice on the claims issues…it’s one communist country helping its master

    • Kaizensigma

      Cambodia is just being smart and realistic. It is acting and behaving according to its best interest and survival, for what is good for its citizen and not for the good of Pnoy. Besides, how do you ignore the giant in your midst. The 2nd largest economy in the world. The country that hold over $2T of US debt. The economy that is projected to overtake the US economy in 10 years. How can you really ignore and antagonize this reality?????  It is foolish and unsound stupid diplomacy when the stake is so high.  The same stupid foreign policy that kicked out its former benevolent benefactor and protector out of the largest foreign naval base outside of okinawa….hmmmm, which stupid country was this and now has come to regret its folly? 

      And by the way, please, nobody uses the term west phil sea, its the south china seas!  This is the internationally accepted description and not a unilateral recent invention know which nation.   

      • Carlos_Iho

        PH should be smart and realistic then and give everything china wants…well, lucky cambodia, china wants nothing from them..they neither hosted any foreign base…they just need to get their act together since nobody is interested on them anyway…

        to cozy up with a giant just for survival is desperation..I do not think that asserting sovereignty is stupidity..

        anyone can call any place any name they want…like street signs this can change anyway

      • Kaizensigma

        There is no such thing as something for nothing.That’s pure nonsense and naive. You are either misinformed or ignorant of history and the real world. 

        China wants a secure southern border from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. There is also enormous cross border trade among the nations. In return these nations need to secure funds and technology for their developments. Survival is knowing who you are, your  limitations, your needs and knowing your adversary. To do otherwise is suicidal, much like the kamikaze with their futile banzai charge against the well armed and dug in US Marines in WW2. But in the end getting mowed down by the hundreds if not thousands and still lose the battle.   

      • Carlos_Iho

        a sweeping statement from a history expert perhaps?  secure border with cambodia?  is china in any threat from that country?  obviously cambodia desires favors from china in exchange of their show of loyalty…is cambodia’s economy “enormous?”
        china simply wants to bully everyone with the threat of economic retaliation…what do you do then as a highly informed expert of history and the real world?

      • Kaizensigma

        Obviously you are not entirely versed with chinese history. China’s foreign policy and history has always been dictated by the fear of being surrounded and encircled by its enemies (either real or perceived). Therefore, she has always strive to secure its borders by either establishing vassal states, outright domination or building artificial barrier (great wall is an example). Cambodia, laos, myanmar borders china’s southern flank. There are sizable trades along these borders and common languages with China’s ethnic minorities living within these borders. Securing and ensuring the mekong river that flows within these borders is vital for trade. Of course the size of trade in GDP cannot be comparable to the trade with other nations (for instance with Japan or US) since these are smaller countries and primitive economies. China has what they need, capital and technology. In return china has the opportunity for gaining peaceful and prosperous borders for commerce and mutual developments. I am not an expert in history but these things are the real deal in that part of the region. Regional cooperation is robust and gaining footprint. For instance a recent joint police efforts along the mekong river delta resulted in the capture of a group of bandit/pirate plying this lucrative trade route extorting protection money and engaging in narcotics and murder. They were previously untouchable, powerful warlords with their own private armies, the opium heroin triangle region. The join effort between these countries and China along the mekong river delta were instrumental in finally putting an end to this menace. These are just one example of why these nations need each other. They need China’s money, border enforcement capability, technology and commerce and in return China needs them to ensure the border trades are open, free and secure. So you see these is how nations behave. What does PHL have for laos, cambodia and myanmar so they will be convienced its lucrative enough and beneficial for them to replace their China card? This is the real world. Its not about threat from China. The Brits and the Portuguese knew  its time to hand over Hong Kong and Macau. They are well aware that all China has to do is sneeze across the border and they will catch the flu!

      • MBA

        I think bullying is stupid. I think standing against a giant and standing up for what is yours is gallant. If china attacks the Philippines and the Philippines looses, the world will know the Philippines as a nation of pride. The chinese will be known as the bullies.

      • MBA

        It is the West Phil sea and until u are first, u are nothing. The US is keeping a watchful eye. If war breaks who do u think will benefit? If china attacks japan or the pi and the US helps, can china say ” hey dont attack us u owe us money” lol? The debt will just be in paper.

      • Kaizensigma

        First of all, West PHL Seas is not an internationally recognized designation. South China Seas is the international designation for that part of the sea and region. 

        Secondly, China does not have to attack or go to open war with either  Japan or PHL or other nations for that matter to win their battles. According to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, (used and studied at West Point, by Japanese militarist and industrialist, by Taipans and Billionaires across the globe),  “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” .    It will hit you with a ton of brick before you even know it. It is through stealth and knowing your enemy/adversaries that you win the battle. You will need more than an MBA to comprehend these strategies.      

  • mapanuri

    China went to UNCLOS with the row with Japan. China doesn’t want UNCLOS with the row with Vietnam or Philippines. Double standards for an irresponsible world power. Cable 08BEIJING3499 proves that there’s no historical evidence that will justify the 9-dash line of China over West Philippine Sea. Objectivity seem to be lacking on the Chinese side. Sorry China, the law isn’t in your hands and it doesn’t favor you as well. Your map tells you’re only up to Hainan. :)

    • Marlou Wang

       Sorry China?  After they stole and destroy natural resources in Scarborough shoal?

    • Kaizensigma

      there is no historical evidence to the term “west philippine sea”. It is a recent invention. This term is only used by the Philippines to describe the internationally accepted term of “south china sea”. Sorry, law and history is written only by the victors not by the vanquished.

      • MBA

        And how do u come up with a 9 dash line? Until now nobody in the ccp can explain where they got the 9Dash line. China signed the unclos and is expected to abide by them. Why is china breaking this agreement? One word… greed!

      • MBA

        Victors? Just wait. U might have won this battle but u will lose this war.

    • Kaizensigma

      The Brits and the Portuguese knew they could no longer ignore China after it has awaken from its deep slumber. Hong Kong and Macau are just the beginning of the reckoning and the reclaiming of what were forcibly stolen from China by foreign powers in the 100 years when it was in slumber. Likewise, Japan also can no longer ignore its past deed when it plundered and raped China and stole the Daiyu Islands. It has taken over 50 years from the time Mao declared in 1949 that China has risen for it to finally claim its rightful place in the pantheon of nations and civilization. To be respected, treated equally and feared. This is the reality of the times we live it!

      • MBA

        Respect and fear are 2 different things. Until chins proves himself in battle china is just another country with a big army. Until china removes communism it will never be accepted as an equal. It will always play as a villain in tue world stage. It will never gain respect from the west and it will always be feared in the east. If war broke it will be a coalition against china.

      • StreamXLine979

        Yeah was rightful in getting back territory that was taken from them, but that 9-dash line thingy is a bit of a fairy tale don’t you think?

  • Butuan

    Alam naman natin lahat na ang mga INSIK ay hindi MAPAGKAKATIWALAAN, in short MANDURUGAS! Sorry for my French.  

    BAYANI KA President Benigno Aquino III because you stand on what is right (for our country) in the midst of the whole world. Mabuhay!

  • Rosauro


    United States can’t afford to stand against the will of China not because of
    its military might but because the USA owes China trillion of US dollars; if the
    USA does so, China will pressure the USA to pay its debts. If this happens then
    China will dominate the world in terms of many things militarily included
    because China will use the money in researches. Believe it or not, that’s the
    truth. It is like what is happening in Syria, Iran is using its proxy (HAMAS)
    to wage war with Israel in order to divert Israel’s attention from Iran’s
    ambition to produce Nuclear weapons to be used against Israel, which is similar
    to the situation between China and ASEAN nations. The USA is not that stupid to
    be taken for a ride into believing that to side with ASEAN is in the best
    interest of its survival; no way will the USA will be trapped into taken for a
    ride because it has its own car.

    • truth_will_set_us_free


      • Kaizensigma

        and the truth, the reality of our times we live in, is what Napoleon had foretold is that china has finally awoken from its deep slumber. So no wonder you are shaking!  This is the truth and hopefully it will set you free!

    • Kaizensigma

      The rise of China was foretold by Napoleon Bonaparte over 200 years ago:  “Let China sleep, for when they awaken they will shake the earth”.   
      How do you deal with a giant that has finally awoken from a deep slumber when its very core was shaken by over 100 years of internal strife, civil war, foreign invasion, foreign humiliation of the unequal wars – opium wars, recurrent famine and epic human sufferings? The world will have to accept this new reality and know that China asleep for over 100 years is no longer the sick man of Asia. It has risen again to reclaim what were forcibly taken and stolen by foreign powers during the years it was in slumber. This is the reality of our times!

      • MBA

        And where is Napoleon now? Where did he spent his last few days on earth? He also has forseen the fall of Rome and the Pope (which he succeded but was short lived). Nope, china has a long way to go. I do not think the US will allow that. If the US defeated a more powerful and bigger USSR it will crush a china who has alsways been defeated.

    • MBA

      Fyi if war breaks, war breaks! Gone are those debts. Who do u think will benefit? The US or China?

  • ApoNiLolo

    Hun Sen tried to do a fast one like what Sotto did in his libel clause in the Cyber Law. Mabuti na lang PNoy was “alert” this time and not impressed or intimidated at what the autocratic Khmer Rouge remnant was doing. Kudos to him.

    ASEAN was created so small countries, like us, will have economic and political strength in the international stage. What’s the use of this bloc if one of its member is a decenter, kowtowing to the whims of a stronger, bullying nation. Either all members states put the decenter in its proper place or kick the puppet out of the organization.

    A classic Sun Tsu doctrine of “divide and destroy” is what China is trying to achieve. We are playing on China’s hand if ASEAN nations does not repel this and be united on its purpose.

    • Marlou Wang

       Well stated. I totally agree.

  • MBA

    2 thumbs up for the Philippine president for speaking out. It goes to show that Aquino is no pushover. He will stand up to a giant eventhough the odds are againsts him. To all his detractors I have my middle finger up and u guys can shove it up. Dont worry Mr President, the bigger they are, the more stupid they become. Hold your ground. The world is watching and they like what they see. Fyi, I’m not even Filipino.

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