(UPDATED) MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has criticized Cambodia over the “unprecedented” absence of the traditional joint statement from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
In a statement on Friday, July 13, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) “deplored” the non-issuance of a joint communique after Cambodia, the summit’s chair, opposed it.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario simply wanted the statement to include his discussion on Scarborough Shoal, according to the DFA. The Asean ministers’ summit, however, ended not only without a mention of the disputed territory, but with the absence of a joint statement altogether.
“The Philippines takes strong exception to the statement made by the chair of the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that this will be ‘the first time that Asean is not able to issue the joint communique due to bilateral conflict between some Asean member states and a neighboring country,” the DFA said.
Cambodia, for its part, rejected the blame. Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said he could not accept “that the joint statement has become hostage of the bilateral issue (between the Philippines and China),” said a report on the Chinese state-run China Daily.
China has also rejected supposed accusations it should be blamed over the non-issuance of a joint statement.
Problem with Cambodia
The DFA noted that several Asean member-states and the Asean secretariat have backed the proposal to mention Scarborough Shoal in the joint communique. The problem, the agency said, is with Cambodia.
“(The) chair has consistently opposed any mention of the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) at all in the joint communique and today announced that a joint communique ‘cannot be issued,’” the DFA explained.
The Philippines also explained the Scarborough Shoal dispute is not merely a bilateral but a multilateral conflict, involving 4 Asean member-states: the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. It “should therefore be resolved in a multilateral manner,” said the DFA.
“Cambodia is showing itself as China’s stalking horse. This will make negotiating a final code of conduct with China more difficult,” said Southeast Asia expert Carl Thayer. (Read: No Asean consensus after summit.)
China, for its part, described the summit as “productive.” (Read: China sings different tune, says Asean talks ‘productive.’) — Rappler.com