8TH ADMM PLUS MEETING: Addressing the Giant Panda’s Bathtub?
by Mohamad Lail Febryantsyah
The South China Sea have been a very hot bathtub in the recent years. Not without a cause, China or The Giant Panda have been claiming the South China Sea within the 9 Dash line unlawfully and by disrespecting the territorial sovereignty of many nation states within the region.
Not to mention the increase of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) military activity in the past few years, and their participation in unlawful trespassing, the establishment of a military base in the Spratly Islands, and their continuous actions which annoy and scare local fisherman of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippine, and Vietnam.
ASEAN countries are perceiving the action of China mentioned before as a major security threat towards them, therefore they created a specific forum within ASEAN in order to address the security issues that occurs within the region. And then we saw the birth of ADMM and the ADMM Plus. The ADMM PLUS is an annual meeting of defence ministers of ASEAN with its 8 dialogue partners which are Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States (collectively known as “Plus Countries”) with its first meeting held in Ha Noi, Vietnam on 12th of October 2010.
What is ADMM PLUS?
The ADMM itself is a confidence building mechanism within ASEAN region. Alongside with their dialogue partners, the ADMM PLUS is a platform for its members to discuss about the regional security environment in ASEAN.
The 8th ADMM PLUS meeting on the 16th of June 2021 brought a whole new stage of the struggle for reaching a commonly agreed Code of Conduct to be implemented for the South China Sea that have been discussed for almost 3 decades. Interestingly prior to this meeting, the ASEAN defence ministers held an informal conference with China’s defence minister.
The whole sessions of the meetings, both ADMM PLUS and ADMM which was held a day prior to ADMM PLUS are focused towards a full implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) that China previously denied before.
China believes that the South China Sea disputes should be settled bilaterally. Once they able to settled their disputes, then they will agree to discuss a new code of conduct. Meanwhile, the ADMM PLUS and the ASEAN-CHINA Meeting continues to draft a somewhat dangerous Code of Conduct in which they will challenge China which have a big military capability and not to mention their Nuclear Missile Capability and will take a drastic action if they think it is necessary.
Unfortunately, the 8th ADMM PLUS Meeting is still not able to create and implement a commonly agreed Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. Instead, the meeting was only able to declare and emphasized to each state to respect each other’s strategic interest, upholding and respecting every International Law specifically the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982), and by any means possible to avoid physical confrontations and resolving every security issue by peace mechanisms.
Challenges for Code of Conduct
Why it is so difficult to achieve a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea dispute? One of the factors of the difficulties on resolving the issue is because of the nature of each claimant conflicting interest in natural resources and strategic reasons. According to a research by CSIS, there are approximately 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 11 billion barrels of oil in proved and probable reserves in the South China Sea. Not to mention that it is one of the essential cross road for maritime trade, which worth around $3.4 trillion.
As time goes by, the South China Sea Dispute will not be able to be resolved on its own without everyone’s commitment and seriousness. Concluding and knowing from the previous meetings that we will not have a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea in the near future.
This brings a major question towards the ADMM PLUS, is the ADMM PLUS effective enough? Will the ADMM PLUS be capable to facilitate and later produce a peaceful Code of Conduct for the South China Sea? The answer somehow lies within each member’s commitment and seriousness, especially for China as the bully(?) on the South China Sea.
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ADMM PLUS, “BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN DECLARATION BY THE ADMM-PLUS,” ADMM, ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting, last modified June 16, 2021, https://admm.asean.org/dmdocuments/2021_Jun_8th%20ADMM-Plus_16%20June%202021,%20VC_1.%20Special%20Declaration.pdf ↑
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