The Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) meeting now at a Regional Forum in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, has a critical decision to make in respect to tensions and stability on the South China Sea. ASEAN could act now and agree upon a "freeze" or "cessation" of further provocative acts on the South China Sea that would serve to reduce tensions and Chinese assertions across the waters. Or, ASEAN could cave-in to China's desire that the implementation of a code of conduct on the waters of the South China Sea be further deferred, thus giving an advantage to a rising China to continue its exploits upon its weaker neighbors under a tattered claim to most of the Sea in spite of the United Nations(UN) Law of the Sea.
ASEAN's crucial decision will shed light upon whether or not ASEAN has a consensus to yield to China's growing economic and military might or that ASEAN has a consensus to abide by international law and call for a "freeze" or "cessation" of provocative acts upon the Sea, and put in place a code of conduct on regional waters that China has sought to delay, by dangling carrots of trade before some members so that they would not act out of fear of seeming to antagonize China.
The ASEAN nations: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam; have all witnessed China's past spats with the Philippines and recently with Vietnam over territorial claims on the South China Sea; thus that all parties voluntarily abide to a "freeze" or to a "cessation" of provocations should be an easy decision. But it wouldn't be for this group. Many of them are heavily entrenched with China in trade, and given China's modus operandi in such matters, the Beijing communists will be dangling carrots at most members.
But should ASEAN not see the wisdom in making the best decision, China could very well wash oil rigs and patrol boats upon all the ASEAN members' beaches in the coming years.