The story continues…
This time, it’s the turn of the Americans to keep everybody waiting. Except they didn’t wait.
Right on 2.15pm, the VIPs gathered for the mega Asean Regional Forum got on the stage for the usual picture to record their presence. Twice: the formal pose which looks like they were facing a firing squad, and the Asean linked arms way which is a bit of a squeeze for the fleshy. Hosts and guests went into the meeting room and sat down – and the Americans came.
The Asean elders must be pretty disappointed that the group picture of Family and Friends has a missing person. How will they ever explain this on their Facebook page? Anyway, no one knows why Hillary Clinton was late. She did look COLD though, wrapping a shawl tightly round her shoulders as she marched in. The Asean house seemed to have turned up the conditioning to cool down tensions.
Some of them had an earlier meeting before lunch, which they call the East Asia Summit. Lots of talk about co-operation, peace and stability. The Chinese side seem determined not to mention those three bad words South China Sea and the even worse phrase, Code of Conduct. They never made it into any formal speeches at the forum.
Unhappy gong bangers had waylaid a junior Chinese minister who gave an interesting tid-bit: – that the Chinese will start negotiations on the code when the time is “ripe”. Ah…When is ripe? What is ripe? Is it still going to be ripe in September, the date everyone was talking about earlier this week? Is that when Asean and China sit down and ….do what? Say they will refrain from coercion, threats, force, intimidation – as Hillary Clinton wants?
That looks easy enough…no? Surely, this is not an episode from the Sopranos…
But the Philippines still seem pretty unhappy. The elder wants the code to be “substantial” and wants it to spell out how the dispute will be resolved. Not enough to just talk and talk. Everybody must leave the Asean house with a solution.
Some people think it might be better to develop disputed property jointly, and split the money evenly.There’s so much money to be made in this fish-rich, oil-rich area….Maybe too much. But working together is what the Malaysians and Thais are doing in their own disputed part of the sea – and it seems to be working out fine.
Some gong bangers are making much of Clinton’s words that the pact must be resolved “collaboratively” – they think she means taking the dispute to a multi-lateral or international level. Now if the intepretation is correct, the Chinese are going to be mightily unhappy.
Frankly, no one looks happy at this open house…some look positively grim.
There’s still time to fix things and make sure no one does a high noon on the high seas. The Americans are meeting the Japanese, themselves really unhappy with the Chinese for presuming the Senkakus was its Daiyou. The Americans are meeting the Chinese too. Then the Americans are meeting the press. The Japs will do so tomorrow – before the Asean elders do theirs.
This is going to be one big fight over property.