Saturday, July 23, 2016

China divide and conquer splits Asean

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Southeast Asian nations are in disarray over Beijing’s saber-rattling in the South China Sea with the fractures set to deepen as staunch China ally Laos hosts top regional diplomats this weekend.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are among the delegates due to fly in from Sunday for two days of meetings in Vientiane, the capital of the communist nation.

May 11, 2015. Land reclamation of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.
Cambodia and host Laos are Beijing loyalists, with both impoverished nations weaned on Chinese aid and investment. Shortly after The Hague ruling, Beijing announced more than half a billion dollars in soft loans for Cambodia.

Asean initially touted itself as the best forum for China to negotiate with rival claimants over the sea. Now it appears China has succeeded in splitting Asean on the South China Sea issue. This weakens the organization as a regional voice. Chinese pressure was blamed last month for an embarrassing U-turn by the regional bloc as members suddenly disowned an apparent joint statement released by Malaysia that condemned Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea.

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