It is not at all surprising that the foreign ministers and heads of state of Asean could not come to any agreement over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea at their meeting in Phnom Penh.
The failure to take a stand was basically a reaffirmation of the traditional Asean core value of non-interference. This is the policy which brought international criticism for many years to Asean with regard to its reluctance to address human rights abuses in its member states, particularly in Myanmar.
But there was another and probably much more important factor that encouraged non-action in Phnom Penh. Along the sidelines the meeting became a skirmish in a regional power struggle between two superpowers, China and the United States, and Asean leaders perhaps understandably are unwilling to appear to be taking sides.
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