Nov 11, 2019 / 10:11

Don't expect too much from ASEAN in South China Sea issues: Australian scholar

The Hanoitimes - ASEAN is divided in the South China Sea issue and Vietnam needs to avoid controversy when it takes over the chairmanship 2020.

Dr. Leszek Buszynski, Honorable Professor, Strategic and Defense Studies Center, Australian National University has talked to Hanoitimes about the role of ASEAN in settling the South China Sea (SCS) issue, and the role of the international community in this thorny issue.

Dr. Leszek Buszynski, Honorable Professor, Strategic and Defense Studies Center, Australian National University. Photo: Linh Pham 

Vietnam should not expect too much from ASEAN because the bloc is divided in SCS issue as some other countries like Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia do not think the SCS is important for ASEAN and regard it as a bilateral issue, Dr. Leszek Buszynski said. 

There are countries, including the aforementioned ones, especially Cambodia having a close relationship with China. They have different views and don’t consider the issues as seriously as Vietnam does.

In fact, it’s really difficult to make all the 10 members united in a common concern and it depends on how China would react because China has been pushing Vietnam in Vanguard Bank and surrounding areas.

Assuming the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020, Vietnam needs to avoid controversy in ASEAN and should insert SCS issues in the meetings next year to get support from member states. All Vietnam can do is to obtain in the bloc’s meetings a special concern about the sea which expresses the bloc’s common view.

Making things public

Dr. Leszek Buszynski was aware of the importance of publicizing the SCS issue internationally very early. He raised this issue when he first came to Vietnam and met with senior officials at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV) in 1993.

“I told them that you have to raise the situation on international media and always talk about it,” the professor stressed.

Attending the 11th South China Sea International Conference in Hanoi on November 6-7, Dr. Leszek Buszynski once again raised the issue and supported Vietnam’s stance on the SCS.

Vietnam has been doing this but the country can do more, particularly in cooperating with a number of European countries, for example France, Germany and the UK – the countries have recently voiced concerns about the SCS issues, and in strengthening defense ties with Japan, the US, India, Australia, among others, he noted.

China fears for bad reputation

The professor emphasized that Vietnam needs to seek external support, including from Japan, the US, and Australia when being asked about what Vietnam should do to prevent the situation from getting worse.

What Vietnam should do is to strongly protest China’s violations and made the illegal activities public internationally, he added.

Back to 2014 when China moved its oil rig into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone in the SCS, Beijing had to compel the withdrawal before the deadline as Hanoi won international support thanks to its strong reaction.

It’s obvious that Vietnam’s strong and public reaction helped. In comparison with regional claimants, Malaysia doesn’t do this because of their own reasons and the Philippines doesn’t do this since it has a complicated internal situation.

Being one of the world’s biggest powers, China needs to focus on economic development and at the post of a big country, China doesn’t want bad reputation and naturally it’s afraid of bad image.