The unparalleled mix of the EU’s wish to have a complementary relationship with China, the priority it gives to trade, as well as the divisions within the Union that interrupt its common foreign policy, explain why it contributes little to Southeast Asian security.
Washington DC based analysts sharply criticized the policy and actions of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration regarding China’s actions in the South China Sea, reflecting the US government concern that under Duterte it is “losing” the Philippines.
The outcomes of the ASEAN Summit can be divided into two main categories: the “cautious optimism” view, and the “missed opportunity” interpretation, against the backdrop of a G2 titans’ clash between the US and China.
In October 2018, the MoU on the feasibility study of the Muse-Mandalay railway, a part of the USD 20 billion Sino-Myanmar railway, was signed. This led to the speculation that the canceled Sino-Myanmar railway might be resumed.
The US and China are increasingly confronting each other militarily in the South China Sea. The US is deploying new undersea drones in multiple sizes and diverse payloads. China’s use of drones in the East China Sea has already raised political hackles.
On November 16, 2018, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal handed down its verdicts for Case 002/02. The surviving top leaders of the Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, were found guilty of “various crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.”
ASEAN states’ unwavering support of the “ASEAN Way,” characterized by the making of consensus in tackling regional issues, probably suggested that they maintained a prudent and pragmatic diplomatic posture towards China, in between firm rebalancing and full endorsement.
The EU warned that it would withdraw its trade preferences given to Cambodia, if Cambodia could not reverse the perceived deterioration of its human rights situation. The country should not underestimate the potential severe impact of the withdrawal on its garment industry.
A robust, binding code of conduct for the South China Sea has become a “holy grail” for analysts and decision makers alike. Many have tried to find it and failed. The Blueprint for a South China Sea Code of Conduct is likely to fail to gain wide acceptance too.