World / Asia-Pacific

Who's 'abducting' ASEAN on S. China Sea issues

By Xu Liping ( Updated: 2014-05-16 14:22

The news that Chinese fishermen were detained by Philippine police came soon after the start of the dispute with Vietnam concerning China's deep-sea oil rig. The unstable situation which began recently in the South China Sea thus seems to reveal a tacit agreement between the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Chinese foreign ministry responded to ASEAN foreign ministers' "serious concerns" over the developments in the region, saying that "the issue of the South China Sea is not a problem between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. China opposes any particular country's taking advantage of the South China Sea issue to sabotage friendship and cooperation between China and ASEAN."

China was antagonized by Vietnam and the Philippines – which escalated tensions in the South China Sea – and the complex relations between countries which are each looking out for their own interests can perhaps explain their intention to drag China into the dispute.

It must be stated that the US "pivot" - or rebalancing - towards the Asia-Pacific region may backfire. Even US allies criticize the strategy – due to a new configuration of international relations. Experts around the world say that Barack Obama is trying to safeguard US allies in the Asia-Pacific following his Asia trip, which makes issues concerning the South China Sea a focus of international attention.

Additionally, there are other reasons for Vietnam and the Philippines to deliberately aggravate the situation, and they are fuelling nationalist sentiment to shift attention away from domestic issues like corruption, a surge in the unemployment rate and social conflict.

2015 marks the starting point for the establishment of a three-pillar ASEAN community, with the aim of uniting all ASEAN members so that they speak with one voice. It must be said that some nations are trying to connect the South China Sea issue with ASEAN, so as to sabotage China's integration with the association.

China and its neighboring nations have the same goal to establish a common destiny, but this should not be misinterpreted as meaning that China will compromise on its national core interests such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and development.

In the final analysis, the aim of "abducting" ASEAN, interfering in China's development and creating problems about the South China Sea is not in the interests of any country - and China should stay calm on the issue.

The author is a professor of National Institute of International Strategy in Chinese Academy of Social Science.

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