By Li Hongmei
The forthcoming 19th ASEAN summit to be held in Bali, Indonesia seems more noteworthy than before, as it will see the formal entry of the United States and Russia into the East Asia summit grouping.
Also, leaders of ASEAN countries, its dialogue partners Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon will be converging at the 19th ASEAN Summit and related Summits from Nov. 17 to 19.
In addition, “Initiatives” aimed at settling the South China Sea issue will be offered by the Philippine President Aquino III, as released by its Foreign Affairs Undersecretary.
Actually, it is no key highlight to the world, in that the Philippines, even at the 18th ASEAN Summit, proposed to establish a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship, and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C) that seeks to segregate the disputed South China Sea islands from the undisputed parts to put an end to “military intrusions” in the region.
It is also no surprise at all why the Philippine will reignite the so-called South China Sea proposal in the name of regional tranquility, since the “Pacific President” Barack Obama would show up at the upcoming Bali Summit, he would much like to see any gesture to echo Washington’s “Return to Asia” strategy.
To his delight, his Asian allies, including the Philippines, could stir up a “group brawl” fighting China, which has seen a visible rise in terms of strength and influence in a region that Washington reaches out to incorporate into “its interests”.
In the meantime, ASEAN will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of its ties with China during the 19th Summit of ASEAN's leaders and their discussions with dialogue partners. It is virtually an old game ASEAN countries never tire of playing-- Look to both China and the U.S. to magnify benefits.
That said, the timing the Philippines chose to toss out the South China Sea proposal is just to keep pace with the U.S. Pacific-Asian strategies. This serves as a reminder that in 1998, immediately after it signed troops’ visiting agreement with the U.S., the Philippines took occupation of the Huangyan Island, the only island surfacing from water among the Zhongsha Isalnds; When a military drill pact was signed in 2002 with the U.S., the Philippines hurriedly moved its so-called City Of Cara Rock to the Nansha Islands.
Now that Obama is scheduled to appear at the ASEAN Summit, the Philippines will embrace the “golden chance” to get back at China, again churning up the South China Sea.
Regardless, if the Philippines insists the ASEAN Summit should be “a chance” to vociferously spell out its intention, it would miscalculate the reality as it is. Any discerning observers would say the move to involve the U.S. in the regional disputes is no wise choice, as it would probably complicate the situation and put sand in the wheels of unraveling the issue.