Shadow of South China Sea issue over ASEAN and East Asia Summits

India has suffered a trade deficit in respect of five ASEAN members.  

The issue of freedom of navigation through the vast South China Sea is likely to be one of the key talking points in the ASEAN summit of Monday. Highlighting the importance of the issue, Chinese premier Li Keqiang said in a newspaper article that differences over the water body has been the reason for ‘setback’ in bilateral ties between Beijing and Manila in the past and urged a solution for the differences.

“Our countries do have different views on certain issues and our relations encountered a setback due to the South China Sea issue. As the saying goes, ‘The wise expand common ground while the unwise aggravate differences,’ said Mr. Li in a major article in one of the major newspapers in Philippines published this morning.

The South China Sea has been at the centre of multilateral problems at the ASEAN level further complicated by China’s land reclamation projects which are aimed at building air surveillance and domination projects in the region. ASEAN has been battling with the task of framing a Code of Conduct (CoC) for the common maritime future of the South China Sea.

The article by the Chinese premier is landmark as it came more than a year after China received an adverse verdict at the International Court of Justice where Beijing’s claim over the maritime region was rejected. An arbitral court of the ICJ had also accused Beijing of harming the ecology of the South China Sea by reckless construction in the shallow waters and the reefs.

The maritime issue also received an acknowledgement in the official statement put out by the Ministry of External Affairs on Sunday following the conclusion of the first formal official level dialogue on the nascent ‘Quad’, the quadrilateral project including Japan, India, Australia and the United States.


Highlighting India’s outreach for the ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific region, the statement said, “open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region serves the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large. The officials also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the region as well as on enhancing connectivity.”

“The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners.” the MEA said.

The article by Premier Li also, reminded Japan’s wartime atrocities in China and laid out China’s historical links with the South China Sea, the western Pacific region and various other countries, including Philippines.

“Many Filipinos trace their ancestry to China’s Fujian province. The ancestors of Jose Rizal, your founding father and national hero, were from Jinjiang city of Fujian. Ye Fei, a well-known Chinese general in China’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression, was born in the province to a Filipino mother,” Mr. Li wrote.

However, the premier pointed out that under the rule of President Duterte, bilateral ties between two sides are seeing an upswing.

“China also provided timely weaponry assistance in the counter-terrorism campaign in Marawi, and on the second day after the campaign successfully concluded, Chinese engineering machinery were delivered for local reconstruction,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 3:47:44 AM |

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