ASEAN won't be cannon fodder for US: Global Times editorial

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/14 17:28:42

Xisha Islands in the South China Sea Photo: VCG

In a statement issued on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that China's maritime claims in the South China Sea were "completely unlawful." Pompeo also rejected China's southernmost claim of Zengmu Ansha, and accused Beijing of using intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian countries. He even said that China was replacing international law with "might makes right." 

With such a strong-worded statement targeting China, Pompeo obviously aims at stirring up the South China Sea situation and instigating other claimant countries to intensify their territorial disputes with China. Washington hopes to exhaust both ASEAN and China by simply making statements.    

The US is being deeply mired in the pandemic. Americans are now unwelcome in most of the places around the world. It is uncomfortable for Washington to see the good momentum being made by China-ASEAN ties. In fact, the trade volume between the two has increased despite the pandemic. Consultations over the South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC) are progressing smoothly too. Therefore, the US wants to make waves. 

We believe countries surrounding the South China Sea and the whole of ASEAN have enough wisdom to see through this. Under the slogan of "America First," the current US government's strategic selfishness has reached an unprecedented level. But when it comes to the South China Sea issue, the Trump administration has adopted a more high-profile posture than previous US administrations, acting as if it would do anything for ASEAN countries. Does it intend to deceive them as foolish kids?

Development is the main theme of ASEAN. Has the US shared any additional development resources with ASEAN countries over the years? Washington encourages countries like the Philippines and Vietnam to be tough on China, but has it promised to stand with them if they have military clashes with China? Even if Washington makes a private commitment, do these countries dare to trust it?

Due to historical reasons, territory and maritime disputes in the South China Sea exist. Divergences do exist between China and its neighboring countries when it comes to disputes. But such differences are not leading China to "conquer" these countries. China did not resort to military means to solve the South China Sea disputes. The waters have not seen combat in over 30 years. China and ASEAN have found effective ways to reduce tensions by promoting consultations on the South China Sea COC. This has resulted in regional stability. 

For best national interests, ASEAN countries need to maintain balanced diplomacy between China and the US. Yet the latter always wants to cajole and coerce them to pick the US side. It is to turn them into US cannon fodder as part of its strategy to contain China. It won't succeed. 

We call on all ASEAN countries to maintain a high degree of vigilance against the US' malicious strategic intentions in the South China Sea. Do not fall into the US' trap due to tactical temptations. It only seeks to aggravate chaos. Peace and stability in the South China Sea concerns ASEAN's fundamental interests. But the US, driven by its own interests, is shaping this regional situation in the opposite way.

Territorial dispute is the thorniest issue in international relations. But in many cases, they are not the real focus of interests in national relations. The greatest common interest between China and ASEAN is to seek mutual development - and not let territorial issues impede our reciprocal cooperation. It will be a shame for regional countries to be manipulated by such an extraterritorial power, abandon our fundamental interests, fall into radical nationalist sentiments, and let Washington reap the benefits of our disputes.

Over the past few decades, China has negotiated a clear delineation of land borders with many countries, including Vietnam. This shows that China is a reasonable country. China will not bully neighboring countries. 

But we will not accept any country which uses US intervention as leverage to pressure and harm China's interests. 

China has the sufficient ability to defend its sovereign interests. It has enough goodwill to negotiate and resolve disputes with neighboring countries. We hope ASEAN and China will continue to strengthen cooperation in the future.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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