Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Beijing proposes drills with SE Asia



Beijing proposes drills with SE Asia

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (third left ) shakes hands with officials during the 51st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Ministerial Meeting in Singapore on Thursday. ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP

Beijing proposes drills with SE Asia

China wants to stage joint military exercises with Southeast Asian nations in disputed waters, according to a draft document, but insists other countries should be excluded in what analysts say is a bid to diminish the influence of the United States.

Beijing’s suggestions, which also call for joint oil and gas exploration, are part of efforts to expand its influence in the South China Sea, which it claims almost entirely, and push back at Washington which has backed countries with overlapping claims to the waters.

The move came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Malaysia Thursday on the first leg of a regional tour in which simmering maritime tensions with Beijing are expected to feature prominently.

Pompeo will travel to Singapore on Saturday for talks with Asian and European Union (EU) counterparts on political and security issues in Asia-Pacific as the US seeks to promote its strategic vision for the pivotal region.

A code of conduct between Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to govern behaviour in the South China Sea has been years in the making.

The draft document, seen by AFP, outlines different countries’ bargaining positions as they work towards an agreement, and analysts said it represented some initial progress.

In the text, Vietnam offers the strongest opposition to Beijing’s activities – calling for countries to stop building artificial islands and establishing military installations.

But there was little sign of serious resistance from other countries, signalling how opposition to China’s aggressive expansion in the resource-rich waters has ebbed in recent years in Southeast Asia.

At a meeting of foreign ministers in Singapore on Thursday, Beijing and Asean announced they had agreed on the negotiating text for the code.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who is chairing the meeting, called the draft a “major achievement”.

“The code of conduct is meant to... ensure that peace, stability, confidence is built up so that we can continue to make collective progress between Asean and China while we take time to resolve the territorial disputes,” he said on Thursday.

However, it was too early to say when negotiations would be complete, he added.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims to China’s in the sea.

Tensions have escalated in recent years due to Beijing building artificial islands that can host military bases.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • Cambodia's poverty cut in half from 2009 to 2019: World Bank report

    A report published by the World Bank on November 28 states that Cambodia’s national poverty rate fell by almost half between 2009 and 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic recently reversed some of the poverty reduction progress. Cambodia’s poverty rate dropped from 33.8 to 17.8 per cent over the 10