The United States has developed a penchant for stoking tensions in the South China Sea on the occasion of the annual series of Southeast Asia meetings in recent years. And when the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their regional partners met in Bangkok over the past few days to discuss important issues concerning regional development, this year proved to be no exception.
Although the US president was absent from the meetings for the third consecutive year, which has been widely interpreted as showing the White House's indifference to the regional bloc, US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien stepped up to the plate and seized the occasion to lash out at China over the South China Sea issue.
Apart from the now habitual attempt of the US to make something out of nothing, by hyping up the issue of freedom of navigation, O'Brien also accused Beijing of using "intimidation" to try and stop ASEAN member states from exploiting their offshore resources.
A remark that shows the US is provocatively choosing to ignore the efforts China and ASEAN have made to ensure the waters remain calm.
Since last year, China and ASEAN members have been negotiating the text of a Code of Conduct, which aims to build lasting peace and stability in the South China Sea, with an eye on concluding the negotiations in three years.
At present, tension over the maritime disputes has greatly abated while regional enthusiasm for deepening maritime cooperation has increased.
In his meeting with leaders from ASEAN countries on Sunday, Premier Li Keqiang said the first reading of the single draft negotiating text of the Code of Conduct had been completed ahead of schedule last year, and a second reading has begun.
Under such circumstances, ASEAN should guard against the meddling of the US in regional affairs, so as to protect the hard-won results that have been achieved so far.
As a force from outside the region, the US has been playing a disgraceful role in the South China Sea, usurping the maritime disputes between China and some of the ASEAN countries to fish for its own strategic gains in the region.
With China and the Southeast Asian countries resolved to conclude the Code of Conduct negotiations on schedule, the attempts by the US to interfere in regional affairs and sow the seeds of discord will only damage its own interests and status in the region.