Development Policy and International Relations
(Photo: ASEAN Secretariat News)
The ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was first introduced in 1967. The Meeting is convened annually, with informal meetings and retreats in Between. After this meeting, Joint Communique will be publicly released by the chair of ASEAN. In this sense, the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM)/ Post Ministerial Conference (PMC)/ 20th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)/ 3rd East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (EAS FMM) was officially held on 27th June- 2nd July 2013, Banda Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam. Click to download the [Joint Communique of the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting 46th AMM – final – 30 June 2013]
What is Joint Communique (JC)?
Joint Communique is referred to a kind of joint statement which made by the Ten of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers based on the consensus principle as the decision-making. In other words of saying, JC is simply defined as a statement that points out a set of collective cooperations which ASEAN Member States have been working together in order to achieve a common goal. While at the same time, it also indicates the future directions of its community, its relationship with external parties, the collective views on regional and international security, and so on. However, this JC can successfully be made after the meeting, provided that there are approvals on every single word of the JC from all ASEAN Member States before issuing publicly.
In this regard, This year JC of the 46th AMM has reflected the joint commitments of ASEAN Member States and it has touched on a wide range of cooperation and other issues such as Community Building, three ASEAN Communities: ASEAN Political Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Socio-cultural Community, Narrowing the development gap and Initiative for ASEAN integration, ASEAN Connectivity, Timor-Leste’s Official Application for ASEAN Membership, External Relations, Regional and International Issues, and the 47th AMM that will be held in Myanmar in 2014. The 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting has learned experiences from what was happened in Phnom Penh in the occasion of 45th AMM, in July 2012. The ASEAN needs to maintain the unity, solidarity and centrality of ASEAN in front of the outsiders’ influences, particularly on the South China Sea issue.
Why JC cannot find consensus during the 45th AMM/PMC/19th ARF/2nd EAS in Phnom Penh?
We would take a look at the duration of making process of some milestone documents such as:
– the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in South China Sea (DOC) which was established, Phnom Penh, 2002
– the Guidelines for the implementation of the DOC which was made, Bali, 2011
So, it had been waited for 9 years in order to see its guideline for implementation of the DOC to be born. Still, this guideline for the implementation of the DOC was not enough due to they have to wait for Code of Conduct (COC) in South China Sea to enhance peace, security, stability and prosperity of the region. After Indonesia’s Chairmanship, COC was aimed to reach its conclusion during Cambodia’s Chairmanship. Therefore, Cambodia has been working its best to ensure COC reaching conclusion. Unfortunately, the development in South China Sea caused the tension between the claimant state, especially between China and Viet Nam, China and Philippines.
In order to find out the reason of non-consensus, then I am of the view that we should be better to trace back to the wider picture which had happened before the 45th AMM/ PMC/ 19th ARF/ 2nd EAS FMM, July 2012, Phnom Penh. South China Sea issue was believed as the main cause of non-issuance of JC during the 45th AMM as ASEAN Foreign Ministers, so it cannot find consensus on this issue.
In this sense, we need to find out things that caused and escalated tension in the South China Sea and make it becoming a hot issue for discussion and boomed out in the amid of the meeting. Prior to this, it should also note that Obama’s administration has shifted its policy toward Asia in what it was called “American’s Pivot to Asia.” In this regard, some ASEAN Member States have taken this opportunity to rely on United States of America’s policy to balance with China’s influence as one of the claimant states in South China Sea and the most powerful in the region both militarily and economically.
Vietnam has reopened “Cam Ranh Bay” which it is believed as the significant strategic sea port, one of the best deepwater shelters in Southeast Asia where it is 290 kilometres northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. This opening of bay is believed to keep U.S. close by the border of Southeast Asia as Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung offered the bay to all countries in 2011. Read more on “Vietnam’s open port policy: strategy for keeping China at bay.” More importantly, a month before the 45th AMM, we have seen Vietnamese National Assembly passed “The Vietnamese Law of the Sea”, that extends its jurisdiction and sovereignty to depute islands which also claimed by China. And China opposed Vietnamese maritime law over sovereignty claim.
Another ASEAN Member State is Philippines which is the oldest and closest strategic allies of U.S. in Asia. The U.S. is bound to protect the Philippines under the terms of a 1951 treaty. Under this mutual defenses treaty, Philippines expects that U.S. force would come to defense when it confronts with China in South China Sea. After 20th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Pneh, China and the Philippines remained in a maritime standoff over the Scarborough Shoal. At the same time, there were a lot of controversies between these two countries on the recent development in South China Sea. President Aquino III said that “We have been ready to protect our sovereignty to the limits of your capabilities“, but after that we also saw he said “It’s better to jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war.”
Therefore, if we looked back to these, then we would realize that South China Sea issue likes a curve where it had came to the top before it came to the 45th AMM/ PMC/ 19th ARF/ 2nd EAS FMM in Phnom Penh. As Viet Nam and Philippines have tried to bring the issue to multilateral talks as they believe that bilateral talks with China will gain nothing or even lose benefits. As the consequences, it led to the difficulties of issuing Join Communique of ASEAN Foreign Ministers’s Meeting in the July 2012.
However, after non-issuance of Joint Communique, ASEAN under Cambodia’s Chairmanship also issued a statement in what was called “Six-Point Principles on South China Sea.” Click to download [ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Statement on Six-Point Principles on South China Sea ] It was a statement which got full consensus on South China Sea from all ASEAN Member States. While at the same time, United States of American also passed resolution to call parties concerned in South China Sea for “Self-restraint”. Read more on this resolution [U.S. Senate Unanimously Passes Resolution Calling for “Self-restraint” in South China Sea Disputes]