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ABN # 65 648 097 123
Background Briefing: ASEAN Summit: Cambodia and the South China Sea Carlyle A. Thayer March 29, 2012
[client name deleted] 1. ASEAN is one of the only associations that pulls China and most of Southeast Asia into multilateral dialogue. It seems like an opportune time to discuss the South China Sea dispute. If ASEAN, led by Cambodia as Chair, shirk the discussion on the South China Sea, what does this say about the Association's political role? ANSWER: Do not confuse ASEAN’s form and substance. The fact that the South China Sea is not formally on the agenda for the forthcoming ASEAN Summit does not mean the issue will be ignored. ASEAN has a standard operating procedure to disguise controversial issues. Cambodia, as ASEAN Chair, cannot prevent any ASEAN head of state from raising the South China Sea issue. Neither can Cambodia control the ASEAN Plus One discussions with China. In January ASEAN member foreign ministers and China discussed implementation of the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). 2. Ultimately, who made the decision? Was it an Asean consensus? Or was it more up to Cambodia as this year's chairman? ANSWER: Cambodia as chair has moved to keep the peace. By not formally putting the South China Sea on the agenda ASEAN avoided aggravating relations with China. Recall that the inaugural ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting with their eight dialogue partners (ADMM‐Plus) did not have the South China Sea on the agenda, nor did last year's East Asia Summit, yet the South China Sea was raised in both fora. All the other ASEAN attendees will know that they are free to raise any issue of concern including the South China Sea. 3. Does the territorial dispute put Cambodia in a tight spot between it's biggest post‐ Khmer Rouge ally and it's biggest current patron? Could you give a bit of background on the relations of the three countries? ANSWER: Cambodia is in the box seat this year because it is ASEAN Chair. It will be courted by all the major powers. China has large and growing economic interests and Cambodia has benefitted from Chinese investment. At the same time it has amassed over US $8 billion in debts from Chinese loans. Cambodia has to tread carefully and hope for debt relief. Cambodia has remained silent on the South China Sea issue since it was raised by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the July 2010 ARF meeting.
2 It was also one of two countries that did not raise it at last year's East Asia Summit (along with Myanmar). Vietnam, as a member of ASEAN, will put pressure on Cambodia not to undermine ASEAN consensus on this issue. Cambodia will have to go along with this consensus. Vietnam also has a massive economic stake in Cambodia. Cambodia may lean towards China on many issues but there are constraints as to how far it can go. Vietnam has also had to accommodate China. Cambodia is fully aware of this. 4. Is it in Cambodia's best interest to remain quiet on the issue? Why? ANSWER: It is in Cambodia's interest to play a less proactive role than Indonesia. Publicly Cambodia can give the appearance of not antagonizing China. In private Cambodia must reflect ASEAN consensus. Cambodia is not the only stumbling block to ASEAN unity ‐ Thailand also wants to keep a low profile non‐confrontational posture towards China. 5. China says it doesn't want to "internationalize" the dispute. How legitimate is this given that the dispute directly involves several countries? ANSWER: The South China Sea has been internationalized in the normal sense of the word. But China's use of internationalize refers to what it considers outside powers. There are many South China Sea issues ‐ territorial sovereignty disputes and maritime demarcation disputes. In some cases the dispute is a bilateral matter. Last year China and Vietnam reached agreement to work on disputed areas that only involved them. Other disputes are trilateral ‐ as between Malaysia, China and Vietnam where their claims overlap. No matter what China prefers, the South China Sea issue includes a set of concerns related to freedom of navigation, over‐flight and unimpeded commerce. This issue is international because it involves all maritime states whose warships and commercial vessels ply the sea lines of communication. Fifteen of 18 members of the East Asia Summit (EAS) raised maritime security concerns last November. China argued that this was an inappropriate topic for the EAS. On this set of issues China cannot help prevent it from being internationalized. It already is and will continue to be so.
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Background Briefing: China, Cambodia and the ASEAN Summit Carlyle A. Thayer March 29, 2012
[client name deleted] 1. Hu Jintao is coming to Cambodia just days before the 20th ASEAN summit is held in Phnom Penh. Cambodia has said it will not put the South China Sea issue on the agenda, this in line with China's stance that the issue should not be discussed by countries that are not directly involved in the dispute. Do you think there is any relevance to the timing of Hu's visit? ANSWER: Hu Jintao's visit is time to bring maximum Chinese diplomatic influence to bear on ASEAN to recoup losses in the past two years. Hu will offer economic carrots to induce behaviour favourable to its interests. Hu's presence is also designed to put pressure on Cambodia as ASEAN Chair to take China's concerns into account. Since ASEAN works by consensus all China needs is one country to oppose a united ASEAN stand against China on South China Sea interests. Cambodia has followed ASEAN's time‐honoured standard operating procedures by not putting controversial issues on the formal agenda. This will assuage China. But it will not prevent any ASEAN head of state from raising this issue either at the ASEAN Summit or at the ASAN Plus One meeting with China. 2. How important is China's influence in Cambodia and the greater ASEAN region? Is this influence growing? ANSWER: China probably has more influence on Cambodia than any of the external powers. This interest is mainly economic. But China is not the only country that has influence in Cambodia. Vietnam has robust political and defence ties and some substantial economic interests. Cambodia and the US have developed ever closer defence cooperation on counter‐terrorism and training for UN peacekeeping. China is the largest trading partner of most ASEAN countries. Cambodia's largest trading partner is the US. China and ASEAN has a Free Trade Agreement in effect that will shortly cover the entire Southeast Asia region. China's influence has grown in this area. China's influence rose steadily since 1997 when it enunciated a "new concept of security." Between 1999‐2000 China signed long‐term cooperative framework agreements with all ten ASEAN countries. But Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea over the past four years has eroded its influence and rekindled the "China
2 threat" of the early 1990s. China promoted its new security concept to counter the China threat theory. Last year the Chinese Foreign Ministry was given the lead role to herd the so‐called "nine dragons" ‐ competing civilian agencies with an interest in the South China Sea ‐ and bring them into line. Two of the nine dragons, China Maritime Surveillance and Fisheries Enforcement played independent roles in exacerbating tensions in the South China Sea. But Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea has served to undermine China's "smiling diplomacy" of recent years. A majority of ASEAN countries of expressed concern about maritime security and South China Sea issues and favour a balancing role by the United States. 3. In terms of the South China Sea debate, what kind of influence could ASEAN have in resolving the dispute? ANSWER: ASEAN members and China agreed in July 2011 to Guideline to Implement the 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. They have set up a Joint Working Group to implement this agreement. ASEAN and Chinese senior officials met in Beijing in China and agreed to set up four expert working groups to address technical issues such as marine pollution and marine scientific research. Despite China proclivity for settling South China Sea issues bilaterally, China has nevertheless agreed to meet with ASEAN members. ASEAN is trying to negotiate a more binding Code of Conduct with China. To the extent that ASEAN members can reach consensus and maintain unity they can exert considerable influence on China. If ASEAN fails, China can divide and conquer. 4. What other important political/security/economic concerns do you think ASEAN should address? ANSWER: ASEAN has already adopted a comprehensive approach to dealing with so‐ called non‐traditional or transnational security issues. This approach is spelled out in the Blueprint for an ASEAN Political‐Security Community. This community is one of three pillars constituting the ASEAN Community to be established in 2015 (the other pillars are economic and socio‐cultural). On political issues: ASEAN needs to reach consensus on what role the East Asia Summit (EAS) is to play now that the US and Russia are members. Should the EAS adopt an oversight role over APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the proposed ASEAN Maritime Forum Plus. On security issues: ASEAN's Defence Ministers will meet in Cambodia shortly. They need to give direction to the structure they created and address traditional security challenges in a practical manner. Foremost among these issues is how to ensure safety of navigation and over‐flight when military vessels from different countries encounter each other in the South China and East China seas. On economic issues: ASEAN has got to reach consensus on the emerging Trans‐ Pacific Partnership (TPP), Should ASEAN encourage the evolution of the TPP to embrace the entire Asia‐Pacific Region, including China.
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Background Briefing: South China Sea: Renewed Chinese Assertiveness? Carlyle A. Thayer March 29, 2012
[client name deleted] 1. China has launched a large‐scale propaganda campaign with the participation of many agencies to promote the U‐shaped line in the South China Sea as well as assert their claim at the East China Sea. What is your assessment about this move and its' consequences? ANSWER: China is divided. There are up to nine competing agencies with a material interest in the South China Sea and East Sea, such as China Marine Surveillance and Fisheries Enforcement. They have set their own agenda in trying to impose Chinese jurisdiction in waters contained within the 9‐dotted line on their map. The Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry has been given responsibility for recouping some of China's lost prestige and influence due to the assertiveness of these agencies. A Foreign Ministry spokesman has stated that no country claims the entire South China Sea. This means that the waters inside the U‐shaped line are not viewed as territorial waters, according to some analysts. Analysts have taken this statement to mean that China is claiming sovereignty over some or all of the islands, rocks, reefs etc. inside the U‐shaped line. This new formulation brings China closer to but not in compliance with international law including the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In sum, there is jockeying among competing Chinese agencies over South China Sea issues during a time of power shift in the leadership. This is a potentially dangerous period where extreme nationalist sentiments could shout down the voices of moderation urging a diplomatic settlement. 2. China has been rather successful in spreading its nine‐dotted line claim and its claims on the Spratly and Paracels, e.g the line has appeared in many scientific journals such as Nature, Science as well as many maps. What do you think Vietnam can do to "countermove" China 's propagandas, limit the spreading of its false claims and raise awareness of Vietnam 's rights? ANSWER: I do not agree with your premise. While the nine‐dotted line map may be printed in unofficial publications, it is not accepted by the international community. China has not made its claims clear. On the one hand, it claims "historic rights" and on the other, argues on the basis of international law. These are incompatible.
2 Vietnam and other ASEAN states must continually press China to clarify its claims under international law. If the waters inside the nine‐dotted line are not territorial waters, then what is China claiming? Some analysts say China is claiming sovereignty over the islands and rocks. China could argue that the islands are entitled to a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This would mean China’s EEZ would overlap with the EEZs claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam. In theory this could form the basis of a settlement involving the delineation of maritime zones under UNCLOS. China too needs to clarify what islands and rocks it is claiming. Does China mean the islands and rocks it occupies, or is China claiming other islands and rocks occupied by the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia? Vietnam must double its efforts to ensure that ASEAN reaches consensus on this issue particularly in negotiation on a binding Code of Conduct. Vietnam should also issue its own maps making clear the legal basis of its claims. Perhaps another White Paper of the South China Sea would be helpful, outlining the historical and legal basis of Vietnam's claims. Vietnam should never stop making diplomatic protests when China undertakes activities in areas under dispute.
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Background Briefing: ASEAN Summit: China, Cambodia and the South China Sea Carlyle A. Thayer March 30, 2012
[client name deleted] ‐Q1. What do you expect the main topic of debate/the main concerns will be among the ASEAN delegates to the Summit? AANSWER: ASEAN Summits cover an incredibly wide agenda. ASEAN is moving towards its self‐imposed deadline OF 2015 to create an ASEAN Community based on three pillars ‐ political‐security, economic, and socio‐cultural. There are a plethora of programs and initiatives under each initiative. ASEAN is also promoting regional connectivity, lowering the gap between its less developed and more developed members and attaining millennium development goals. In other words, the agenda for the ASEAN summit is pre‐cooked by the bureaucratic process leading up to the summit. Specifically, ASEAN senior officials will polish the drafts of various policy documents and statements that will be served up to ministers and heads of government for approval. No doubt the rise of China and South China Sea issues will feature. These have been kept off the formal agenda by ASEAN Chair Cambodia. But that will not prevent concerned states such as the Philippines from raising maritime security issues. Other ASEAN countries will be concerned to position the regional organization so that it is not drawn into Sino‐American strategic rivalry. This has an economic dimension. China and ASEAN have already agreed on a Free Trade Area. ASEAN and the Plus Three members ‐ China, Japan and South Korea ‐ are also promoting an East Asia free trade area. Opposed to this is the Trans‐Pacific Partnership (TPP) being supported by the United States. The TPP does not include China. ASEAN members will have to consider what is their preferred vehicle or mechanism for regional economic integration. Finally, all ASEAN members will be concerned to assist Myanmar in its present reformist trajectory and see the elimination of sanctions presently imposed by the EU and the United States Q2. After the strong chairmanship of Indonesia which sought to make the body more effective, do you think Cambodia can keep that momentum going or should we expect a rather weak leadership this year? ASEAN: Cambodia, as ASEAN Chair, will have to promote those issues on which ASEAN members have reached consensus. Cambodia cannot use is position to veto
2 any proposal put before the body. But Cambodia has signaled that it will not take the lead that Indonesia did in pushing discussion of maritime security and South China Sea issues. Cambodia is also a party principal to the border dispute with Thailand. It cannot effectively use its role as chair to pressure Thailand to accept Indonesian observers. Cambodia will focus on economic issues that are dear to ASEAN’s less developing members ‐ Laos, and Myanmar. Cambodia will press for increased aid to assist the so‐called CLM states overcome the gap between themselves and ASEAN’s more developed members. Q3. What do you think of Hu Jintao's visit (he arrives in Phnom Penh tomorrow, will leave on April 2) so close to the ASEAN summit? What kind of message might China be trying to send? Is it possible China will try to remind close ally Cambodia to keep the South China Sea dispute off the table? ASEAN: Hu Jintao’s visit is much more than about the South China Sea, although this issue is important to Beijing. Hu Jintao is making a pilgrimage to Phnom Penh to flatter its leaders on the eve of the ASEAN Summit. China is trying to recoup lost prestige caused by its assertiveness in the South China Sea over the past several years. Hu’s visit will also remind Cambodia and other ASEAN states that China’s economic rise will lift their economic boats and that their futures are interdependent. China has already succeeded in getting Cambodia to keep the South China Sea off the formal agenda. And Chinese diplomacy has succeeded in shifting Cambodia from lending its support to the ASEAN claimant states. China can offer “no strings” aid and assistance and outbid the US which offers aid with conditions attached. ASEAN works by consensus, China’s strategy is to entice one or more members into adopting China‐friendly policies and thus prevent an ASEAN united front against China, particularly on South China Sea issues. Q4 Regarding ASEAN Economic Community by 2015, is it feasible? ANSWER: It is a process not an end states. Whatever further ASEAN economic integration is achieved between now and 2015 will form the basis of the ASEAN Economic Community. It will continue to be a work in progress.
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Background Briefing: ASEAN Summit: Can China Block Discussion of South China Sea Issues? Carlyle A. Thayer March 30, 2012
[client name deleted] 1. The South China Sea tops Southeast Asia's security agenda after a series of naval clashes over the vast region but Cambodia has declared it off the agenda ahead of a regional summit next week. Will this move, coupled with Cambodia’s tenure as chair of ASEAN this year, portend a grim prospect for a strong code of conduct despite the guidelines for its implementation issued last July? If, so why? If not, why not? ANSWER: Cambodia is following ASEAN’s standard operating procedures to keep contentious issues off the formal agenda. But any ASEAN member will be free to raise the issue. Cambodia, as ASEAN Chair, cannot prevent this. Cambodia’s approach adds insulation to protect ASEAN from China’s reactions if the South China Sea were placed on the official agenda. ASEAN has already approved to concept of drawing up a Code of Conduct (COC). At the Foreign Ministers meeting in January it was agreed to issue a proposal for a draft COC. This process has been set in train. ASEAN functions by consensus, Cambodia COULD play the role of spoiler by refusing to agree to united action by ASEAN in dealing with China. This could serve to constrain progress. 2. Philippine officials say they are "very frustrated" over Chinese efforts to block discussion of the issue within ASEAN, but they will insist on raising the matter in Phnom Penh. Is this something Vietnam should follow? ANSWER: Vietnam benefits from the fact that the Philippines has taken the lead role on South China Sea issues. Hanoi can follow in Manila’s shadow and deflect Chinese ire. Nothing can prevent the Philippines from raising South China Sea issues and Hanoi should give its support to Manila. 3. Given the leadership lineup in ASEAN — Cambodia this year and Brunei next year followed by Myanmar and then Laos – some have said ASEAN is facing a litmus test in formalizing a binding, enforceable code of conduct as ASEAN's method of decision‐making based on consensus, consultation, and proceeding in a step ‐by‐step manner may not be appropriate for this task. Is it fair to say that ASEAN is floundering on the code of conduct?
2 ANSWER: ASEAN is at an early stage in drafting a Code of Conduct among its members. The Philippines circulated a draft COC in February. This will take some time for ASEAN to digest and reach consensus. The COC is not likely to be binding unless it includes provisions for enforcement. China, which has exempted itself from the dispute settlement mechanism contained in the United Nations Convention of Law of the Sea, is unlikely to agree to binding enforcement agreements. ASEAN must take the COC step‐by‐step. First, it must achieve consensus among its members. Then it must negotiate with China. China has consistently put caveats on this saying when “conditions are appropriate” or when conditions are ready. All the COC can do is place limitations on specific behaviour. It will then be up to signatories to show good faith. There is plenty of scope for China to ignore what it does not like. 4. Some skeptics have pointed out that the US “pivot” toward ASEAN claimants may make it more difficult for ASEAN and China to agree on a code of conduct because some claimants may be more assertive and even take riskier actions than they otherwise would, increasing instability in the South China Sea. What is your reaction to this? ASEAN: The US may embolden the Philippines to be more assertive, but the bottom line is that the Philippines must convince all the other ASEAN members to support its position. There is thus scope for compromise and watering down contentious proposals. If ASEAN reaches consensus it will be almost impossible for ASEAN to back down. Once ASEAN has reached consensus it faces the difficult task of getting China to agree to its draft COC. China supports the COC process because it cuts the US out of negotiations. China can thus play for time and gain advantage from divisions within ASEAN. 5. What should Vietnam do to enlist the support from ASEAN members who presumably are for the formalization of a code of conduct but may not want to push the issue too hard vis‐à‐vis China? ANSWER: ASEAN has to step up bilateral diplomatic efforts. It must assemble a coalition of like‐minded states and enlist them in lobbying the other ASEAN members. Vietnam could also pursue linkage diplomacy. It could argue to Cambodia that in return for Cambodia’s support on South China Sea issues, Vietnam will support Cambodia in its concerns about Chinese dam building on the Upper Mekong. Vietnam can also lobby Japan and the United States to be more proactive in giving aid to Cambodia to undercut the appeal of no‐strings attached Chinese aid. Vietnam must adopt an appropriate diplomatic strategy to assist the future chairs of ASEAN so they are supportive of Vietnam’s position on the South China Sea. Vietnam should seek to create a middle power coalition of non‐ASEAN dialogue partners, such as Australia and New Zealand, to support its efforts on maritime security both with the ASEAN Regional Forum and in ASEAN Plus One meetings with dialogue partners. 6.Your further comments would be appreciated. Vietnam must approach South China Sea issues in a “positive sum” or win‐win manner rather than “zero‐sum” approach. Vietnam and ASEAN should not make
3 China feel it is being ganged up on. In other words, they should stress cooperation. China should understand that if it doesn’t cooperate the major powers such as the US and Japan may be invited to play a more proactive role. In other words, Vietnam’s diplomacy should be aimed at making the price of cooperation by China less expensive than the price of non‐cooperation.
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