Background Brief:South China Sea Tensions: WhatRole for ASEAN, the UnitedStates and the United Nations?Carlyle A. ThayerAugust 24, 2012
[client name deleted]We are preparing a report about disputed islands in South/East China Seaparticularly the Spratly islands in Philippines. We would like your assessment on thisissue to update our understanding of the disputes and flash points in the SouthChina Sea area and what might happen in the future.Please offer your assessment of the concerns about the latest tension as it seemsChinese government increasing their troops into the area.
COMMENT: China’s Central Military Commission approved the creation of a military
garrison on Woody Island in the Paracels. There is as yet no evidence this has led toany major deployment of troops, warships or aircraft. Woody Island is too small to
base a significant force. This decision was more likely made to signal China’s
seriousness. China has a major naval base at Hainan Island that would serve foroperations in the South China Sea.Q1. - I understand that Philippines government is seeking help from ASEAN but itseems like they do little thing about it. What do you think about that?ANSWER: ASEAN foreign ministers did agree on the key principles of a Code of Conduct COC) for the South China Sea at their most recent ministerial meeting. Thiswas overshadowed by the dispute over the wording of a single paragraph in a jointcommunique that prevented the release of the joint communique. The Philippinesreceived political support from Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.Cambodia was the only real opponent. The other members of ASEAN sat on the
fence. The diplomatic intervention after by Indonesia’s For
eign Minister MartyNatalegawa restored ASEAN unity behind a common position on the South ChinaSea. ASEAN is not committed to intensify its discussions on the COC and enter intodiscussions with China. It was significant that Marty Natalegawa went to Manila firstduring his shuttle diplomacy.ASEAN is in no position to provide meaningful military support to the Philippines.The Philippines and Vietnam have entered into discussions about joint patrols.Q2. - And should the Philippines government seek help from the UN or U.S.? if yes orno, why?
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