11/20/2012, 00.00
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Asean Summit, no agreement between the U.S. and Cina regarding the South China Sea

Barack Obama meets Wen Jiabao and reminds him of the "common responsibility" of the economy and territorial disputes. The outgoing Chinese Premier smiles but does not answer. Meanwhile, the Philippine president attacks Cambodia: "They say that we have reached an agreement on the issue of the disputed territories, but it is not true." And Europe slips in the ranking of commercial relations with Beijing.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) - Despite the diplomatic efforts, the Asean summit wrapping up in Cambodia does not seem able to resolve the issue of the disputed territories between the various countries of the Asian region. President Barack Obama met with the outgoing Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and, in bilateral talks, "raised the issue" without getting an answer. It is a victory for Chinese politics, which has required member countries to avoid a common agreement and to prefer bilateral negotiations instead.

For almost 10 years, the Asean bloc has been trying to come up with a code of conduct signed by all to prevent fishing accidents, those related to the exploitation of oil fields or those relating to islands on which there are conflicting claims. At the moment the most urgent cases are those of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands (claimed by Beijing and Tokyo), those of the Dokdo/Takeshima (in which Tokyo and Seoul are involved) and especially the strong issue of the Spratlys and Paracels Islands claimed by China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan.

Wen and Obama met on the margins of the summit and posed together for the customary photo-op: both, however, ignored questions from reporters on the issue of South China Sea. The U.S. president, however, said that he had remined China of their "common and special responsibility" to the world, as China and the United States "are the two largest global economies."

Obama then added that he had invited Wen to "work together" to ensure a balanced and sustainable growth and to establish "clear rules" on trade. These are veiled references to the issue of currency and that of trade that has divided Washington and Beijing over the last year. For his part, the Chinese premier smiled, congratulated the U.S. President on his re-election and offered the congratulations of Xi Jinping, whom he called "the new elected leader of China."

The territorial issue seems to have disappeared from the agenda. The controversy, however, was re-launched by the Philippine government, which has denied the Cambodian and Chinese statements that the group "was united in the decision not to internationalize the territorial issues." The President of Manila, Benigno Aquino, stated: "We have expressed different positions and we all realized that there would not be a consensus. How can there be unity, if out of 10 members, 2 disagree?".

China's position is less and less dialogical, also because of the new order of the world economy. Beijing announced that the U.S. has exceeded the EU as the first destination of their exports and that the Asean group has outstripped Japan, now in fourth place.

In the period from January to October, China's exports to the U.S. stood at 9.3 billion versus 6.8 billion to the EU. The total trade volume between Beijing and the EU is greater than that with the U.S., but in the first 10 months of the year, trade with the EU fell by 3%, while with the U.S. it rose by 9.1%.




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