Will Malaysia’s chairmanship of Asean spur the establishment of a long-delayed maritime Code of Conduct (CoC), aimed at resolving territorial disputes between China and neighboring countries in the South China Sea?
ASEAN has long been criticized for being a predominantly state-led talk shop with little participation from the citizens of its members. Yet, recent developments in ASEAN suggest its approach may be shifting.
As a founding member of Asean as well as a claimant in the South China Sea maritime
dispute, Malaysia had a big stake in ensuring the passing of the CoC as a way to safeguard the region’s peace and stability, says US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel.
He hoped that Malaysia can be a model for responsible behavior, where there was real restraint among claimants and (steps taken to avoid) actions that are threatening to neighboring states or destabilizing to the region.
Recently, Malaysia has offered its maritime training institutes as a platform for close collaboration with Chinese experts with a view to developing a maritime training hub for the Asean region.
Transport Ministry said the governments of Malaysia and China were discussing the mechanism of the collaboration, including the hosting of the regional program. The cooperation aimed to leverage on collective resources which would certainly benefit other Asean member states, it said.
However, the resources and territories across the seas that connect Asia’s growing economic powers can lead to conflicts. There are the territorial issues between Japan and China (as well as Taiwan) in the East China Sea and Japan and South Korea in the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea). And there are the issues between China and five of the Asean partners in the South China Sea. Resolving maritime issues is bound up with progress on building an Asia Community.