ASEAN Failure Undermines Vietnam

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Vietnam has suffered another setback in its South China Sea policy with the failure of ASEAN leaders meeting to Manila to stand up to China’s expansion in the region.

Vietnam’s aims have already been frustrated by the apparent incoherence of President Trump’s interventions in Asia, particularly his current courtship of China after directing months of hostile rhetoric towards Beijing.

The Vietnamese prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, (2nd from right) was unable to secure a statement that challenged China’s expansion.

Vietnam has been relying on support and encouragement from the United States in its attempt to resist Beijing’s relentless drive into the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

It also sought a united and coherent stance from its neighbours in the ASEAN regional grouping to help contain China’s ambitions.

However, in his final statement after the summit in Manila, President Duterte of the Philippines dropped any reference to China’s maritime advance, caving in to barely disguised Chinese pressure.

Reports from Manila said that references to “tensions” and “escalation” in an initial draft were dropped, making the ASEAN statement the most anodyne in recent years.

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