The meeting of the ASEAN regional forum saw the United States trying to reduce tension between China and many of the summit’s member states. Recent disputes between China and her Southeast Asian neighbors have centered on claims of maritime rights to the South China Sea. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has proposed a halt to actions that could be viewed as hostile while also trying to negotiate a resolution to the disputed region.
The conflict stems from overlapping claims of maritime rights to the South China Sea. China claims that most of the sea is within their sovereign territory, which puts them in dispute with nations such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. The South China Sea is critical to many of these nations because it provides access to shipping lanes and the rights to natural resources that are in the region.
The rival claims involving the South China Sea have been a point of trouble for US diplomacy in the region as American diplomats try to balance their relationship with China and attempt to maintain a significant role in Asian diplomacy.
While in the Asia-Pacific region, the US Secretary of State also held a meeting with leaders from Japan and South Korea. According to Kerry, much of the meeting was spent addressing security concerns that are related to North Korea.
Economic aid and nuclear arms have been a point of contention between the United States and North Korea. American diplomats would like to strike a deal with the impoverished North Korean nation that sees an end to their pursuit of nuclear weapons while also providing financial assistance.
The ASEAN summit touched on many issues, but most of the talks came back to security concerns and the disputes over rights to the South China Sea. The Chinese Foreign Minister met with Kerry at the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar, but there seems to have been little progress.
After the meeting, a statement released by the Chinese Embassy claimed to welcome the role of American diplomacy in the dispute while at the same time reasserting the legitimacy of their actions in the region. With that being the case, the disputed claims will likely continue into the foreseeable future.