Challenging times for Asean

Asean should welcome Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's call not to treat the South China Sea dispute as "the sum of Asean-China" ties, especially in this significant year of relations, when the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration is also expected to rule in favour of the Philippines over the matter ("Singapore caught in the middle as China-Asean country coordinator", June 24; and "Abiding by global maritime order", June 27).

However, Singapore should not be expected to perform miracles as country coordinator of the Asean-China dialogue relations for the next two years, when claimants continue to disrupt their neighbours' best intentions with self-serving provocations.

The onus is on all disputants to resolve their conflicts peacefully according to mutually established rules of engagement, including international law, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Declaration of Conduct of parties in the South China Sea ("Soul-searching needed lest maritime disputes tear Asean apart"; June 30)

Singapore and many of its fellow Asean member states also remain consistent in their independent position that the "unity and centrality" of Asean must prevail in these protocols ("Asean should find independent statement that reflects its soul" by Dr Chang Wen Lam; Forum Online, June 21).

Billions of lives, many trillions worth of livelihoods and the priceless heritage of marine life are at stake here.

Peace and stability have laid the foundation for shared prosperity in the region and helped to lift people out of poverty.

Pushing the wrong buttons repeatedly with a scarcity and zero-sum mentality risks a conflagration and many unintended consequences, including further humiliation for the Indo-Pacific community last seen during the 20th century.

An open and inclusive principled architecture of confidence-building and conflict-prevention management, including a multilateral deterrence pact against all hard-line militarists and warlords, is a sensible step forward.

Toh Cheng Seong