On the second day of the US-ASEAN summit, leaders at the Sunnylands resort in California put their heads together to formulate a common stance on the conflicting claims laid onislands in the South China Sea. The topic, which pits China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia on opposing sides, has long been a delicate issue among ASEAN nations, not least for Myanmar, which wants to remain neutral.
For some time, the US has tried to convince the ASEAN nations to take a stronger position on the islands dispute, and against China’s handling of the problem. But the economic dependency of some ASEAN countries which rely on the powerful nation to the north have long made a unified, opposing stance unlikely.
“If past experience serves as any indicator, ASEAN cannot grow out teeth against China overnight,” Yun Sun, a senior associate with the East Asia Program at the Washington-based Stimson Center, said.
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