Much controversy follows the recent ASEAN-China meeting in Kunming where an ASEAN ministerial statement was issued and then retracted. The initial statement contained what some see as strong words about the South China Sea and most media reports suggest two members — Cambodia and Laos — subsequently changed their minds.
Some see this as a low point in ties and a split in ASEAN under pressure from China. Others suggest that problems arose from a bureaucratic snafu. Differing statements will no doubt surface. Cambodian leader Hun Sen, for one, now denies that he was pressed by Beijing.
What must be clear even now however is that no one has gained from this — neither China nor any ASEAN member state. What should be considered is whether a similar fracas can be prevented in future.
Begin by seeing this in context. The South China Sea issue has been hot over thes...