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The End of ASEAN Centrality

Asia Times Online, (August 8, 2012)

ASEAN suffered a major loss of face, at least in the perceptions of some international media and academic experts, owing to its failure to issue its customary Joint Communique at its last ministerial meeting (ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, or the AMM) in Cambodia held during July 9-13. The reason, as has been widely reported, was the refusal of Cambodia as the ASEAN Chair to incorporate the positions of Philippines and Vietnam regarding their dispute with China over the South China Sea. As a result, the idea of ASEAN centrality, which assumes that ASEAN, rather than the great powers like China, Japan, the US or India, should be the building bloc and hub of developing a wider Asian or Asia-Pacific regional architecture, is facing a severe test. But there may be some silver linings and useful lessons which, if acted upon, can put ASEAN in a better position to move forward.