Clinton to Asean: Take a stand on Scarborough

MANILA, Philippines — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should take a stand Scarborough Shoal, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said amid the “intense” drafting of a South China Sea code of conduct.

Clinton wants the Asean “to clearly outline its position on Scarborough Shoal” and “to complete a regional code of conduct in a timely fashion,” said the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in a statement Thursday, July 12.

The DFA said Clinton delivered these statements during the Asean-US ministerial meeting that she co-chaired with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.

“What might be a challenge today for some of Asean’s members, if left unaddressed by all of Asean, could lead tomorrow to issues that may become problems for (the rest of) other Asean members,” said Clinton, referring to the South China Sea maritime disputes involving China and 4 Asean members – the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia.

Del Rosario, for his part, urged the region to stick to "a set of fair and transparent rules" under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  

The Asean remains "sharply divided" on dealing with disputes with Beijing, which is widely discussed in an ongoing summit. 

Diplomatic sources said the Philippines wants the Asean's joint statement to mention the Scarborough Shoal dispute, but Cambodia — the summit's organizer and a staunch Chinese ally — has opposed the proposal. (Read: Asean sharply split on South China Sea.)

The tension over Scarborough Shoal, which began with alleged territorial incursions by Chinese fishermen, has now entered its 4th month.

The US has expressed a desire to end the dispute peacefully, but China has resisted US involvement in South China Sea disputes. China, instead, opts to settle such issues through bilateral or one-on-one negotiations. — Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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