The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should act together in terms of a common approach to China and should pursue a harder approach on the East Sea to push through a Code of Conduct, said a Singapore scholar.

In an interview to Vietnam News Agency’s Singapore-based reporter, Dr William Choong, senior fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) – Asia, said that China’s sending its 1 billion USD oil rig to Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone “was the move that was calculated” and “was carefully planned”.

He added, together with China’s moves relating to the Scarborough Shoal, which is disputed by the Philippines, and sending ships down the East Sea and very close to James Shoal, which is in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone, this year’s oil rig deployment in Vietnamese waters is a “very carefully calculated Chinese strategy” to try to occupy the so-called nine-dash line.

The Singaporean scholar continued by saying that “if there are no challenges non-military or military (by claimant states) then China is effectively changing the fact on the ground or the fact in the sea and basically expanding its claim to the East Sea.”

The doctor said the situation “is detrimental to regional security because regional security has to be a product of negotiations and coordination between China and various Asia-Pacific countries”.

Relating to Vietnam’s response, Dr William Choong said: “It’s laudable that Vietnam try not to go up the escalation, that means you try not to use force in kind of encounters with Chinese ships in the water surrounding the oil rig”.

“Vietnam took a moderate and reasonable approach to the Chinese challenges in Vietnamese waters,” he noted.

About the role played by ASEAN in settling territorial disputes between China and some ASEAN members, Dr William Choong said “ASEAN should really need to act together in terms of a common approach to China” and “ASEAN needs to really push ahead a Code of Conduct” while “convincing China that this Code of Conduct would be binding not only China but also ASEAN claimants”.

He concluded, the pursuit of the Code of Conduct “is critical right now because it is certain kind of behaviour what should be done in territorial disputes” and “would be very useful for regional security”.-VNA