08/09/2014, 00.00
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Naypyidaw: ASEAN summit tackles security on the seas and greater cooperation

by Paul N. Hung
47th summit of the Association which brings together 10 countries of South-East Asia is being held in the Burmese capital. Objectives include the creation of a common market by 2015 and greater guarantees in maritime trade. Manila and Hanoi lead push against Beijing’s expansionism. But China will continue to "build what we want."

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Stepping up efforts for the creation of a common market in ASEAN by 2015, outlining strategic objectives, to maintain peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region at the center of maritime and territorial disputes between China and neighbouring nations: These are the main objectives of the 47th ASEAN summit - the Association which brings together 10 countries of South-East Asia - from August 5 to 10 in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar.  

There will be other important meetings on the sidelines of the summit, including This is meeting of ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference (PMC), the 15th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting (APT-15), the 4th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting (EAS FMM -4), and the 21st ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF -21).

Member states want to strengthen internal solidarity and its central role in the regional context, to create an environment of peace, stability and security.  There will also be the full entry into force of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the Declaration of Conduct in the seas (DOC) - fundamental in relations with Beijing - and the creation of a common ASEAN defence program.

Particular attention is being paid to ongoing disputes in the South and East China Sea, which are pitting Beijing against Hanoi and Manila. The ASEAN foreign ministers have underscored the primary duty to ensure the protection and safety of navigation of the seas and launched an appeal to China to end to all "unilateral" actions - such as the decision to build oil rigs - which become a source of tension.

Vietnam and the Philippines have strongly emphasized the importance of peace, stability and security in the seas (south and east); a position shared by the delegations from Japan and the United States, who are invited as observers to the summit. Beijing has been criticized for its "imperialist" policy on the seas, in an attempt to envelope large areas through technical and strategic warfare. In fact, Manila has demanded an end to "destabilizing actions" and sought ASEAN collaboration to block the advance of China and the rapid introduction of a code of conduct based on the directives of  international bodies.

China has already strongly criticized this initiative: Yi Xianliang, Deputy Chairman of the Committee of Border and Sea belonging the Chinese Foreign Ministry has defiantly declared that "we can build anything that we want on  the islands and in the coral reef".

Vietnam and the Philippines have been increasingly worried about Beijing's imperialism in the South China and East China seas. The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.  For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing's so-called 'cow tongue' line is both "illegal" and "irrational". Anyone with a hegemonic sway over the region would have a strategic advantage, in terms of seabed (oil and gas) development, but also in trade since two thirds of the world's maritime traffic goes through it.



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