Archives for posts with tag: ASEAN


Both the new leaders in Beijing and now Tokyo have been adept at employing heated rhetoric over disputed islands in the East China Sea to establish patriotic credentials, but it is also likely that they will not be able to manage and peacefully ramp down the raised emotions and nationalist agenda. Xi Jinping the newly selected China Communist Party Chief and President and Japan’s newly elected Shinzo Abe appear until now to be primarily addressing the Island dispute more as tactical rather than strategic consideration. It serves their ability to short term raise political support and/or votes. However, the real strategic benefit to both countries would be to continue/enhance trading relationships that have made East Asia the global economic engine and to share in the exploitation of apparently significant natural resources in the waters surrounding the territorial waters off the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, (as they are known in Japan/China respectively).
Beijing has only ramped up its nationalist profile since Xi took over, both in similar South China Sea disputes with neighbors Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines as well as the East China Sea. (Read our recent article: “Beijing Draws New Expansionist Borders-Signals Accent of Hardliners” ). In all instances, compromise might serve the pragmatic interests of all nations but particularly China. The disputed islands/waters hold no or very few inhabitants and no cultural/historical links. Nonetheless, the heated rhetoric and other methods are being manufactured to raise the nationalist claims.
Beijing has sought to avoid any reference of the disputes to multilateral institutions or courts such as the United Nations or the International Court of Justice. Beijing perhaps understands its claims to be weak and prefers to employ its significant economic, political and military muscle to as some argue “bully” competing claimants into partial or perhaps total abdication. Beijing also seeks to deal with each of the other claiming states individually rather than agree to a resolution that brings all together – something that would be rational in view that there are multiple claimants to some of the islands and surrounding waters. Again, Beijing appears to be opting for a divide and conquer policy apparently seeking to overwhelm each of its rivals one by one.
However, Beijing may already be badly miscalculating. Some of the rival claimants are seeking the support of the regional multilateral organization ASEAN. Further, some are inviting Washington into the dispute as “White Knight.” The United States also perceives a real strategic interest not the least being that new claims could obstruct shipping lanes. Vietnam and the Philippines are courting US backing and now increasingly Japan regardless of recent animosities. China may find itself creeping into regional isolation.
Does all of this though have to lead to military confrontation, or are we just seeing rivals puff-up feathers before cooler heads and practical interests prevail? Unfortunately, the puffing-up can lead to its own course from which Beijing and now Tokyo may find it difficult to reverse and be seen as losing face with domestic audiences. Most critically, with Beijing so eager to avoid a multi-lateral forum for resolution, it has placed its bets on a favorable resolution by flexing its newly developed muscle. What happens though when the other guy starts to push back – military conflict appears more readily available than a diplomatic or judicial resolution?

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This week’s IMF/World Bank Group meetings in Tokyo, Japan, highlight rise of economic growth in Asia & continent with 60% of globe’s population assuming its new leadership role & making advances in education, healthcare, infrastructure, safety nets, & better governance.

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Blog Report: DIVIDE & CONQUER IN SOUTH CHINA SEA? By Ambassador Mo
Beijing has apparently managed to divide ASEAN from adopting a common position on the South China disputes (with 4 ASEAN states: Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia & Brunei generally on one side & China on the other in territorial claims). Beijing’s diplomacy has taken the position that such conflicting claims should be dealt with bilaterally between China & each of the other claimants separately. –More–