It came as a surprise yesterday when the Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, announced a unified decision not to "internationalize" territorial conflicts in the South China Sea. But it came as a bigger shock earlier today when the Philippines asserted that unified decision was never made.
The initial announcement was made by Cambodia, chair of ASEAN and close ally of China. But on Monday, as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen began to conclude the meeting, Philippine President Benigno Aquino abruptly interrupted and said the consensus had never been reached.
The Chinese regime has aggressively asserted claims to the oil rich waters in the South China Sea. It's expressed a preference to handle disputes bilaterally and not through organizations like ASEAN.
Cambodia has been seen as assisting the Chinese regime to avoid discussions. As Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Phnom Penh over the weekend, China extended a $100 million loan to Cambodia for a cement plant.
On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda accused Cambodia of using its position as ASEAN chair to limit talks on the dispute, warning it could impact on the region's peace and stability.
The thorny issue over the South China Sea also made ASEAN history back in July. It was the first time that ASEAN's annual meeting failed to make a joint communiqué in its 45-year history.
The fresh tensions came ahead of a meeting between US President Barack Obama and ASEAN leaders. Obama will also meet with Wen Jiabao on Tuesday.
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