AS part of its foreign policy push this year, the Indonesian government will push for a new “code of conduct” with China in the South China Sea, as Beijing continues to construct manmade islands throughout the region and fortify them.

“Indonesia shall actively strive so that ASEAN and China could produce a practical and effective COC for the sake of stability and security of the South China Sea,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said.

She added that her government was hopeful discussions could begin during an ASEAN summit in Vietnam, another South China Sea claimant, in March.

Without elaboration, she stressed that ASEAN should be preserved as the “prominent player in the region” with “collective leadership and concerted action.”

“For Indonesia, ASEAN unity and centrality is the key (and) Indonesia will continue to safeguard ASEAN’s unity and centrality,” the foreign minister said.

An international court ruled in July 2016 that China’s outsized claims to most of the South China Sea had no legal basis, but Beijing has ignored the ruling.

Besides Vietnam, fellow ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines have South China Sea claims that overlap with those of China and Taiwan. [source]

(Analyst comment: This is nice and there should always be diplomacy to solve matters of international dispute, but since China has ignored a recognized international court ruling against it, don’t expect ASEAN countries to convince China to reverse course. The fact is ASEAN countries are not strong enough individually or together to stop China’s expansion — and Beijing knows it. The only country that is strong enough doesn’t live in the neighborhood.)

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