Barely two weeks after the UN-sanctioned tribunal in The Hague issued the ruling over the highly contested South China Sea maritime dispute between the Philippines and China, the entire ASEAN community is on a deadlock as member nations failed to come up with a common position on the issue.
Hopes were high during a recently held meeting with different world leaders from different ASEAN-member states in Laos. But to the dismay of the various countries, including that of the U.S., a common position on the issue was not actualized when Cambodia, China’s known loyalist, blocked any reference to the ruling.
This, according to a report from BBC News, frustrated some diplomats from other ASEAN countries and from the U.S. Philippine ambassador Perfecto Yasay was also present during the meeting.
In the July 12 decision issued by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, the court virtually declared China’s claim in the disputed maritime zone illegal, particularly its self-imposed nine-dash line rule. It also ruled that China has no historical claim over the vast maritime zone.
Speaking with the AP on the recent actuation of Cambodia in the recent talks in Laos, Malcolm Cook of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore said that Cambodia’s actions hurt ASEAN than it does any good for the region.
“Certainly, Cambodia’s paralysis of Asean… hurts Asean’s unity, cohesion, relevance and reputation. It makes Asean peripheral, not central, on this issue,” Cook was quoted as saying by BBC.
Certainly, the SEAN bloc should be united and the region should come to an agreement on the issue of South China Sea, experts said. Even before the bloc’s Vientiane meeting Sunday, hopes were high that the recent PCA ruling and its implication in the region would be the central topic, the Aljazeera reported.