In Vietnam, protestors recently rallied against China’s claims in the South China Sea, outraged with Beijing’s recent actions there, including a decision to open bids for oil and gas development in waters Vietnam says are clearly its own.
Vietnam is not the only country that has had flare-ups with China in recent months. Still that has done little to deter Beijing which recently began sending surveillance vessels to patrol the disputed waters.
Justin Logan at Washington’s CATO Institute says that as anxiety grows in the region over China’s raising navy might, many are looking for progress on a long-promised effort by ASEAN and China to set down rules for avoiding future disputes in the area.
“There’s going to be some pressure on, particular the United States since we are the one who was talking about this Code of Conduct, but also on ASEAN more generally to come up with something that appears to be amenable to all parties.”
However, few analysts are optimistic that the Code of Conduct will do much to change the situation. Logan says what could help is for China to take a different approach.
“I think that you know, the Chinese will be well-served to, to not, you know, act, you know, to sort of bow down to the United States or simply get out of their way, but just to dial it back a little bit, and to allow countries in the region to pursue their, what they really want which is to have a good relationship with China on the one hand and a good relationship with the United States on the other hand.”
For their part, U.S officials say they are going to make it clear during the meetings that Beijing and Washington are committed to working together.
Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell:
“This is a very important message to send because I think too often in ASEAN there a concern that South East Asia or other parts of Asia would become some area of dangerous strategic competitions between the United States and China.”
And Campbell says economic engagements with ASEAN countries will also be a crucial part of Secretary Hilary Clinton’s trip.”
“It’s going to be critical for the United States to lay out some specific economic initiatives that will be aimed at South East Asia and that will also highlight a substantial American commitment to business.”
After meetings conclude, the U.S will lead one of its largest business groups ever to Siem Reap Cambodia to discuss expanding American business in South East Asia.
U.S officials say a number of regional ministers and leaders will also attend.