By Arjay L. Balinbin
THE UNITED STATES and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) want international law to be followed, “not the unilateral actions by China,” in resolving the maritime disputes in the South China Sea, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said.
“[O]ur opposition to what the Chinese Government has done in the South China Sea is not because we think we’re making a determination that China does or does not have a claim to a particular feature of the South China Sea. We want international law to be followed and for there to be a peaceful process, not a unilateral decision by one country, to resolve those claims, which involve a number of different countries — [the] Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, et cetera,” Mr. Sullivan said in a special briefing on the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Sept. 27.
In a statement, Spokesperson Heather Ann Nauert of the US Department of State said Mr. Sullivan “met on Sep. 27 with Foreign Ministers and other senior representatives from the ten member-countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.” She also said “the Deputy Secretary co-chaired the meeting with Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith of Laos, the ASEAN country coordinator for the United States.”
In a mobile message to BusinessWorld on Sunday, Sept. 30, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Ernesto C. Abella said Undersecretary for Policy of the DFA Enrique A. Manalo represented the Philippines in the said meeting.
Mr. Sullivan said during the press briefing: “I was met with representatives from all of the 10 ASEAN member-countries. We reaffirmed the US-ASEAN strategic partnership and discussed…the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region with ASEAN at its center, in which independent nations with diverse cultures and aspirations can prosper side by side in freedom and peace. During our meeting, I highlighted the U.S. commitment to upholding international law, including the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. We also discussed ASEAN’s efforts to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea.”
He added: “We have enjoyed many successes during the past 41 years of U.S.-ASEAN partnership, and we’re fully committed to building upon this relationship at the upcoming U.S.-ASEAN Summit and East Asia Leaders Summit in Singapore on November 15th.”
Mr. Sullivan also said: “I’ve met with a number of — bilaterally — with a number of ASEAN countries during my week here at UNGA (United Nations General Assembly). I would say that there is (a) consensus, a commitment by ASEAN and the United States to the rule of law, the Law of the Sea treaty, that should govern these claims, disputed claims to the South China Sea, and not unilateral actions by one country to develop features in the South China Sea and, even worse, to militarize them.”
By Arjay L. Balinbin