Monday, May 08, 2017

Is ASEAN Broken?

After 50 years of success on more modest goals, North Korea, South China Sea prove to be bridges too far

ASEAN Meet: Acceptance of South China Sea as a Chinese Lake
SD Pradhan, TIMES OF INDIA 031517ZMAY17

While earlier ASEAN had criticised the Chinese actions in the South China Sea particularly creation of artificial islands and their militarisation in strongest possible manner, this time the ASEAN summit avoided even flagging their concerns over the Chinese expansion in the contested South China Sea.

Asean, China need reality check on South China Sea issue
Tan Siew Mun, TODAY 032325ZMAY17

Asean’s track record on the disputed sea suggests national interests will always prevail, putting Asean’s viability as a community in serious doubt. What future does the regional organisation hold when the “region” is furthest from the minds of its leaders? 
Second, the South China Sea is telling about how China views Asean. China is guilty of using its enormous political and economic power to influence Asean through “friendly parties” within the regional organisation, but do not expect Beijing to offer any apologies soon. China’s constricting embrace will continue, resulting in the shrinking of Asean’s political-strategic space.

ASEAN, irrelevant or relevant player on the global scene
Oliver Ward, ASEAN TODAY 060000ZMAY17

The South China Sea issue highlights ASEAN disunity, but it is not the root cause of it. The objective to create a liberal economic zone in Southeast Asia is faltering. Economic nationalism across the region has created obstacles to doing business. Domestic companies are still hampered by tariffs and labour mobility is still not encouraged across ASEAN… China represents a fast track to economic growth, not ASEAN. It was this vein of thought that led Hun Sen of Cambodia to preserve Cambodia’s economic interests by refusing to reject China’s South China Sea claim…The projected “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) investment looks set to increase Chinese political influence in the region. The stronger economic ties between China and individual ASEAN member states will only serve and heighten divisions.

Thank God for North Korea!
Munir Majid in THE DAILY STAR 060000ZMAY17

On the study to update the Asean Charter, they agreeably noted the direction from Ministers “for a precise and cautious approach taking into account the views and positions of all Member States.” Does this mean no change in the Asean Charter for the next five years? Ten years? 
Even on the tension in the Korean Peninsula, they did not make any specific suggestion on what could be done. Another attempt to revive the six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear programme that first started in 2003? Play tough and kick North Korea out of the 27-member Asean Regional Forum which North Korea had joined in 2000?

ASEAN Summit underscores dearth of leadership

ASEAN once boasted such opinion leaders as the late Indonesian President Suharto, who led the organization during its infancy. Singaporean founding father Lee Kuan Yew suggested that what was then a five-member regional community cooperate militarily in the face of the Soviet threat… How do current ASEAN leaders compare? One common thread is that they apparently devote much of their energies to domestic affairs while relegating foreign policy to the back seat.

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