Commentary | August 04, 2016

Beijing Banks on Fractured ASEAN

EWI East Asia Fellow J. Berkshire Miller scrutinizes last week's ASEAN Summit in Laos, the first after the landmark ruling by an international tribunal on the South China Sea dispute.

Last week marked the first time senior officials from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) met after the landmark ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague on the South China Sea.

The ruling, awarded to the Philippines in July, has been roundly viewed as a rebuke on China's expansionist claims in the South China Sea and upends any legal standing to its ambiguous reference to the so-called "nine-dash line", which encompasses most of the critical waterway.

Despite this, ASEAN lacks consensus on a way forward following the PCA decision due to divisions within the group and fear that a signalling of support to the Court's ruling would undermine Beijing's significant financial ties to the region.

The result was a hung jury during the drafting of a communique regarding tensions in the South China Sea, with Beijing's domineering influence looming over the decision-making of poorer states in ASEAN, such as Cambodia and Laos.

 

This commentary appeared on Al Jazeera on August 4, 2016 and can be accessed in full here.