The recent summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) could produce a Chinese nod to the implementation of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (SCS) by 2021.
At the just-concluded 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Bangkok, the regional bloc filled a void in the ongoing international Indo-Pacific debate. Various regional actors had previously released their own Indo-Pacific strategies and concepts, suggesting a redefinition of geo-strategic Asia.
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Aiming to have a final deal by the end of 2019, negotiators gathered in Siem Reap for the seventh Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Intersessional Ministerial Meeting on March 2, 2019.
The Indo-Pacific initiative is the first attempt of Asean countries to ensure that its centrality is intact by setting a code of conduct in its collective effort to contain the rise of big powers in the region.
The resolute determination of the various Asean leaders calling for the swift conclusion of the Chinese-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) by the end of the year suggests that China has taken the lead in geopolitical leadership in the region from the US.
With Asean centrality under siege, the grouping has made many attempts to find ways of keeping Asean relevant, including theories of how to balance the sphere of influence between China and the US in the region.
Asean appears to be at the crossroads in terms of their collective energy future amid continued economic growth. The region faces a 50 percent rise in energy demand, which brings challenges in supplying affordable and sustainable energy.
Malaysia’s recent commitment to the Belt and Road initiative might prove to be a trailblazer for other Asean countries to buckle the deal that was moving at a slow pace.
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