Chinese officials began their meeting with Asean foreign ministers in Brunei this week by accusing their 10 neighbours of an anti-Beijing conspiracy over disputed South China Sea territory. China singled out the Philippines, calling Manila a provocateur and threatening war.
It was hardly a display of Chinese diplomacy at its best. Now, China has agreed to discuss a code of conduct with Asean, but Beijing clearly is going to take a hard line in the talks.
Brunei is playing host this week to a string of meetings of foreign ministers from Asean, and from the group's partners and neighbours. There is no denying the political and historical issues at work at the meeting.
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