Vietnam will today chair the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Security Policy Conference, hosted virtually in Hanoi. The ARF, focused on
Vietnam will today chair the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Security Policy Conference, hosted virtually in Hanoi.
The ARF, focused on maintaining regional peace and stability, has in the past sought to address maritime conflict in the South China Sea (SCS). Since 2002, the ARF has attempted to create a multilateral Code of Conduct (COC) for the SCS, and an initial draft was agreed upon in 2018.
This year’s ARF Security Policy Conference comes in the wake of Chinese military drills around the SCS’ disputed Paracel Islands. Vietnam and the Philippines have strongly criticised the drills, fearful of advancing Chinese territorial claims. The US has also responded by conducting dual aircraft carrier drills in the SCS as a show of force. Currently, China claims ownership of over 90% of the SCS.
Vietnam will attempt to push forward negotiations for the SCS COC at today’s conference, although it is highly unlikely any progress will be made. While Beijing has made concessions by dropping provisions aimed at expelling Western forces from the region, negotiations have since stalled. It is likely that China will continue to stall negotiations as it has little to gain from the creation of a SCS COC. Expect tensions to continue to rise between the US and China in the SCS as ASEAN remains deadlocked on how to regulate the region.
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