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Code of Conduct on SCS may not be completed —maritime security expert

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is "too compromised" to complete the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea (SCS), a maritime security expert said on Wednesday.

Former US Air Force official and ex-Defense Attaché Ray Powell made the statement when asked about the importance of help from neighboring countries as well as the rest of the world on the issues in the SCS.

“Two different questions. One has to do with ASEAN's ability to come up with a Code of Conduct and I am sorry to say I am skeptic that that will ever happen. ASEAN is simply too compromised,” he told ANC in an interview.

“If you look at a country like Cambodia, which is very much under Chinese influence and which does not have a coastline facing the SCS. They have no interest in helping complete a strong Code of Conduct,” he added.

Considering that ASEAN is a consensus-based organization, Powell said all countries should be on board to push for such a policy, noting that even only one or two countries can impede the process.

He said the Philippines has a "uniquely difficult" problem compared to other countries that have claims in the SCS because it is the only country with a military airfield, an outpost, and an active blockade in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Due to this, the Philippines is facing a “scheduled crisis” against China during resupply missions, he added.

Philippine vessels successfully completed their follow-up mission to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal on Tuesday despite alleged attempts by Chinese vessels to block and harass the operation.

“None of those other countries have a military base the size of Mischief Reef with a military airfield and port right in the middle of their EEZ. That's only the Philippines. No other country has an active blockade over its outpost in the SCS except the Philippines,” Powell said.

“So while they have irritants and frequently sort of have to confront minor crises, the Philippines has a scheduled crisis that happens every 45 days or so when it goes out to resupply its outpost,” he added.

For Powell, these other countries with claims in the SCS should realize that “China is not going to be satisfied with 85% or 90% of their claims. They will not be satisfied until they have 100%.”

Aside from the ship-to-ship approach in addressing the aggressive behavior of China in the SCS, Powell suggested putting China in diplomatic and economic pressures that would push it to relax its blockade.

“There are diplomatic means. There are economic means. Obviously in order to do some of these things the Philippines is gonna need its partners and allies, the US, on its side very firmly. And so I think there really should be some joint planning happening now especially with the US," he said.

“China needs to be convinced that it is in their national interest to back off,” he added. —Joviland Rita/ VAL, GMA Integrated News