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Divided ASEAN hands China diplomatic coup

Regional group is fading into irrelevance as the supposed engine of integration

| China
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, sixth from right, poses with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers during the closing ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Regional Forum summit in Manila on August 8.   © Reuters

The annual regional forum and related meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila brought together 27 foreign ministers from around the Asia-Pacific region -- but the outstanding result was a major diplomatic victory for China.

Beijing managed not only to deflect criticism of its aggressive behavior in the adjacent waters of the South China Sea, but also to reshape ASEAN's regional agenda in its own image. Once again, the 10-country Southeast Asian bloc has failed to rise to the occasion, placing few constraints on China's maritime ambitions.

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