KATIE TRINH WRITES – As said best by Gretchen Weiners from the iconic movie, “Mean Girls”– China, “you can’t sit with us.”
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United States met for the first time in Southern California February 15-16.
Vietnam and other countries affected by China’s expansionist policies had hoped the summit would strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and ASEAN member states. While China’s economic heft dominates and manipulates the Pacific coast of Asia, Vietnam took advantage of the absent hegemon and did a one two punch in hopes of countering China’s muscle. The goal is for the U.S. and ASEAN members to work together toward stopping China’s takeover of certain islands in disputed territories between China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.
Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung would raise his concerns about the increasingly complicated issues in the East Sea of Vietnam. According to Vietnam News, the VN Prime Minister wanted to make it clear that “countries must prioritize the building of strategic trust, increasing dialogue and co-operation, and respecting compliance with international law – especially the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea 1982.”
Though summit participants made stated public goals for the confab other than to strengthen their relations with one another, they reaffirmed their cooperation through an agreement to uphold the terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 which mandates “maritime security and safety, including the rights of freedom of navigation and over flight and other lawful uses of the seas.”
Statements were made between both the U.S. and Asian partners to respect international order, environmental change and global partnership. Prime Minister Ngyuen was definitely heard at the table in the chaotic cafeteria that is Asia. Now that Vietnam has rounded up its own army of Mean Girls, China might need to lose some weight before getting its seat back at the table. While China might be in the lead for Homecoming queen, we’ll see what’s ahead while ASEAN-US continue to utilize their relationship for the next four years.