Focus was on non-traditional security threats . . .
In line with past summits, both Asian gatherings this weekend avoided discussing ongoing security challenges such as the North Korean nuclear program, U.S.-China geopolitical rivalry, the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, and riots in Hong Kong. Rather, the East Asia Summit focused on non-traditional security threats by issuing declarations on combatting illicit drugs and transnational crimes.
Pushing for ‘Code of Conduct’ for the South China Sea . . .
Although the lingering maritime disputes in the South China Sea touch many of the members of both the ASEAN and East Asia summits this weekend, leaders merely stressed the importance of concluding the ‘Code of Conduct’ for the South China Sea by 2021. And none of the four ASEAN members that have maritime claims in the South China Sea – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam – endorsed the U.S. envoy’s condemnation of Chinese “intimidation” in the South China Sea, likely recognizing the importance of Chinese trade and investment to their respective countries.
Undercurrent of security competition . . .
Although security matters were largely downplayed at these summits, we will likely see more intense discussions at three meetings next spring: the IISS Asia Security Summit (Shangri-La Dialogue), the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting. While the US State Department did release its Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy just in time for the East Asia Summit, Trump did not attend and instead issued an invitation for ASEAN members to hold a special summit in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2020.
- Nikkei Asian Review: Beijing presses ASEAN anew for South China Sea Code by 2021
- The Guardian: ASEAN Summit: US condemns Chinese ‘intimidation’ in the South China Sea
- The ASEAN: 14th East Asia Summit