16 Jul SIIA Chairman Simon Tay interviewed by Phoenix Television on South China Sea ruling
SIIA Chairman Simon Tay was interviewed by Phoenix Television, commenting on how ASEAN is responding to the South China Sea ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. The video is available from ifeng.com and a transcript is available on the SIIA website.
VIDEO: 东盟：不会就南海仲裁案结果发表联合声明 [Phoenix TV, 16 Jul 2016]
Phoenix TV (Mandarin): ASEAN diplomats said on the 14th that they would not issue a unified response to the court decision. This indicates a rift within ASEAN between member countries with regards to the decision. An expert from the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) believes that ASEAN countries should realise that disputes involving only certain ASEAN member states should be dealt with on a bilateral basis by the countries involved
Phoenix TV (Mandarin): According to reports from diplomats of the countries involved, ASEAN was considering taking a unified stand in response to the ruling, but were unable to arrive at a consensus. Hence no response was issued. A scholar from the SIIA believes it is important to realise that it is impossible for the ten ASEAN member countries to arrive at complete consensus on every issue, and that disputes involving specific states must be dealt with on a bilateral level.
Prof. Simon Tay: ASEAN must also face up to the limits of its unity. If we overemphasise unity, we will actually force ourselves to say – is this price worth paying? If today we went to Laos and said: No, you must side with the Philippines – but Laos has got a physical border with China. It’s receiving Chinese trade and investment. The price will be too high. Then it might leave ASEAN.
Phoenix TV (Mandarin): It is important to use diplomatic means to defuse this uneasy period in ASEAN foreign relations. If ASEAN overly emphasises the dispute, it will escalate militarisation of US-China relationship in South China Sea. As a result, ASEAN members may become influenced by geopolitical factors and turn towards the West
Prof. Simon Tay: So I’m against over-focusing on the South China Sea, because that will militarise the relationship between China and the US, as well as between the US and the various ASEAN member states. But funnily, or sadly, it’s the easiest thing for America to emphasise, because America’s military strength within our region remains very strong. So I’m hoping that post-decision, the South China Sea can be a bit calmer so we can see the totality, be much more balanced in the US-ASEAN, US-Asia relationship.
Phoenix TV (Mandarin): The scholar from the SIIA pointed out that the ASEAN meeting next week will be held in Laos, the South China Sea issue will once again become a talking point. Each country involved, especially the US and the Philippines, should exercise restraint in discussing the issue and adopt a rational standpoint.
Photo Credit: Phoenix TV