Thursday, July 21, 2011

ASEAN focused on territory

The disputed territory in the Spratlys, a chain of islets in the South China Sea. Photo: AFP
Article from JoongAngIlbo.
Japan really should stop acting like a kid who snatched some other kid's toy and after it being taken from him, throws a tantrum.

The main focus of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), which begins today in Bali, will be the South China Sea, over which territorial disputes are growing.

And Seoul will be putting its own territorial sovereignty issue - the Dokdo islets - on the agenda at the ARF, Asia’s largest annual security gathering.

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan will meet his Japanese counterpart Takeaki Matsumoto on several occasions during the event and try to convey Seoul’s discontent with Tokyo’s recent “provocation” over Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost islets, according to Seoul officials.

“We will certainly make the case over the Dokdo issue based on our previous stances at the ARF,” said a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday.

On Monday, Japan implemented a directive to its diplomats to refrain from taking flights on Korean Air for one month in protest of the Korean airline’s test flight of its new Airbus A380 over Dokdo, a punitive measure Japanese media called unprecedented action to be taken against a private company.

Japanese lawmakers plan to visit Ulleung Island, the closest Korean territory to Dokdo, next month, allegedly to make an issue over Dokdo.

Dokdo, which Japan refers to as Takeshima, has been under the effective rule of Korea except for several decades in the first half of the 1900s, when Japan occupied Korea. Japan has intensified its challenge over the islets in particular after territorial disputes with China and Russia worsened last year.

Seoul officials said with the boycott of Korean Air, Japan is turning its back on the respect that the international community has for the country and is losing more than gaining from the boycott.

The Ulleung Island visit could worsen relations between the two countries, they said. “Some say we should take their visit as an opportunity to show them Dokdo belongs to Korea and the government actually is considering that option,” said a Foreign Ministry official.

The three-day ARF, which brings together the foreign ministers of 27 Asian and Pacific countries, including North Korea, has focused during the last several years on the North’s nuclear capabilities.

Last year, Seoul sought to adopt a resolution condemning the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, but many Asean members were reluctant to do so. This time, according to the senior Foreign Ministry official, Seoul will focus more on cooperation issues than North Korean issues.

By Moon Gwang-lip []

And China part:

THE bitter stoush over territorial rights to islands in the South China Sea could yet steal the agenda at a key regional security summit that will for the first time include the US and Russia.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday praised talks in Bali between China and south-east Asian countries that this week produced a loose diplomatic accord to guide future action in the disputed Spratly Islands.
China claims ownership over the entire archipelago - thought to be rich in natural resources - dismissing competing claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.
Mr Rudd said the issue had great importance to Australia and the global economy because of the amount of goods shipped through the disputed waters. ''A huge proportion of world trade flows through the waters of the South China Sea,'' he said.
Mr Rudd said the expansion of the East Asia Summit to include the US and Russia was a critical development for regional security.

But he refused to be drawn on the prospect of the regime in Burma hosting the meeting in three years. A committee from the Association of South-East Asian Nations has been asked to judge Burma's suitability to chair the meeting.
He said ''wise statesmanship'' had been shown in striking the deal, with all countries having an interest in ensuring a peaceful regime for managing the strategic waterways.
Diplomats were yesterday hopeful the agreement with China would be enough to keep the issue from dominating the agenda at today's meeting of east Asian foreign ministers.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will join the meeting for the first time. The US and Russian presidents will attend a full summit of regional leaders in November.
China earlier hailed the code of conduct agreed on with the south-east Asian nations as a milestone in the dispute over the Spratlys.
But the Philippines' Foreign Secretary, Albert del Rosario, was critical of the deal, saying it needed ''more teeth''.

A group of Philippine politicians made a provocative visit to one of the disputed islands on Wednesday - the same day as the meeting with China - calling it a ''sovereignty mission''.
Mr del Rosario said the US had given the Philippines its backing in the dispute as part of a mutual defence pact between the two countries. But the Philippines still signed the agreement with China as a display of solidarity with other south-east Asian nations.