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On South China Sea, Experts Deem UN Irrelevant, Consumed with Syria, LOST

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 30 -- When two experts on the South China Sea dispute spoke and took questions for an hour on Monday, for the first forty minutes the words "United Nations" arose only once, as the beginning of the phrase "Law of the Sea Treaty," or LOST.

   Inner City Press asked, could the UN play any role in this dispute? Did Secretary General Ban Ki-moon even raise the issue during his recent travels?

   Bonnie Glaser of the Center for Strategic & International Studies said the UN is "overwhelmed" with too much on its plate, mentioning Syria.

   Inner City Press recounted an interchange in the UN General Assembly in May of this year, when Philippines made a reference to the "West Philippines Sea" during a morning session on mediation. China's Deputy Permanent Representative Wang in the afternoon session chided "a representative this morning" and said he disagreed, that the "South China Sea" should be addressed "bilaterally."

   Joshua Kurlantzick, Council on Foreign Relations fellow for Southeast Asia, replied that the Philippines is in a weak position and throws things "up on the wall to see what sticks." He too found UN involvement unlikely. He also said that ASEAN has a weak hand, and has played it weakly.

   On this, a representative of US-government agency Radio Free Asia asked for a grading, on a scale of one to 10, of ASEAN's efforts, as well as whether "Mister Panetta" should send in more Marines.

   The grading effort was eschewed, but on Marines Ms. Glaser mentioned the new deployments to Guam and Darwin, Australia, adding that for any encounter with North Korea, Marines would be important. Ah, spheres of influence. Watch this site.

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