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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

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A pretty girl and her suitors

I am getting antsy. Here I am at a conference with Hillary Clinton dropping by and I am running after….journalists. I am running after journalists to get them to run after newsmakers to get this or that story or this or that comment. But I am not filing. Since I have this blog and since I am waiting for my charges to come back with  hopefully full notebooks, I thought I’d just file this. Can read or don’t read. Never mind. Keep your eyebrows level.

HERE is one description of Asean: She is a pretty girl who is being courted by various rich men. She is trying to decide which one to marry. Or maybe she won’t marry anyone. After all, who doesn’t like being wooed?

That’s the position Asean is in right now, as various big powers come a-calling at her home. Home is Phnom Penh for the moment where the senior relatives, namely the Asean foreign ministers, are holding court.

So far the focus is what to do with the conflict over the South China Sea which the Chinese, Vietnam and the Philippines have been rowing over. The bottomline so far: The Chinese have agreed to get involved in drafting a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

The story goes like this:

On Sunday, the Chinese sent an entourage of senior officials ahead to the Asean house. They want to know what is being planned for the South China Sea. Asean’s lesser  relatives, namely, the senior officials, have been trying to work out a code of conduct so that the Chinese won’t end up beating up their  family members, namely Vietnam and the Philippines.

You see, the Chinese are quarrelling with Vietnam and Philippines over who really owns which pieces of the South China Sea. Big money is involved because owning it means you get to dig under it, where there is supposed to be plenty of oil. Plus, owning it means you can close your gates to other strangers who might want to go through it.

Some family members think Asean should act big. The family clan should get together and tell China to push off. But others like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar sort of like China. It’s been helping them over the years after all. China, however, wants to settle the fight one-on-one: Come on, Philippines! Come on, Vietnam! Get over here and we talk, okay?

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Well, you know who will win in a schoolyard fight like that…..

The Chinese are quite unhappy that another big boy is hovering around. The United States is glaring at the house, hand on gate, deciding whether to enter or not. The Philippines is keen to let them in. After all, the US has been looking out for it for a long, long time. But it is being held back by more cautious relatives: Hold on! Hold on! The US isn’t part of the South China Sea quarrel. Let them stay interested, but keep them waiting outside. If we need them, we can let them in.

Anyway, the Chinese aren’t stupid. They know that to keep quarrelling with the girl’s family isn’t going to take it anywhere. I mean, you don’t want to shoot the girl’s family members, do you? And if you do, you can bet the big fellow at the gate will come barging in. So the Chinese agreed to come into the house and talk. Talk only. No deals ok? But let’s talk.

Asean is holding an open house this week which means the US and other rich men will be allowed into the gate to mix and mingle. Some strange people will be there, like North Korea. Long-standing rich friends too, like Japan. Asean’s senior relatives are discussing like crazy what to do over the next few days.

In the meantime, the pretty girl is in the bedroom, putting on her makeup.





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Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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