The Americans were telling the Chinese that it was all about freedom of navigation when freedom of navigation was never an issue in the first place. But freedom of navigation was an excuse for the Americans to threaten the Chinese with consequences and vowing to take actions should China continue to build structures in their islands. And China responded by saying it does not create trouble and fear no trouble, 无事不找事，有事不怕事. China is reclaiming land from the sea and building infrastructures inside its own territories. None of the Americans business.
And into the fray came more secondary powers or bit players as Sam Bateman called them, from all corners of the world from as far as Canada, France and the European Union and neighbouring India and Japan, all using this opportunity to claim their right to conduct military patrol in the South China Sea. Whose South China Sea is that? What about the littoral states of the South China Sea, what about Asean, the countries with EEZ in the South China Sea? Do they have a say in who should be patrolling the Sea?
With all the clouds and haze being spewed all over the South China Sea by the Americans, a country far far away and has no territorial interest in the South China Sea, the Americans and distant and near countries now conveniently claimed the right to the South China Sea, wanting to control the South China Sea militarily with no regards to the Asean countries, without having to ask the Asean countries for their opinion and their consent like the South China Sea belongs to them.
Such insolence and arrogance can only come from the European powers and young upstart second rate Asian powers or bit players thinking that they are now military powers and can bulldoze their way all over the South China Sea. The blame should be placed squarely on the Asean states for their ignorance, foolishness and their reticence, for inviting the foreign powers to meddle with affairs in their region, and not protesting. They did not even know that they have served the South China Sea in a silver platter to the powers of the world and given up their interests in the Sea.
Asean is no longer relevant or material to the South China Sea. It has been hijacked by the big powers from far away under the guise of freedom of navigation, and taken over control of the South China Sea. Asean states are now transparent to the issue. Everyone is here to grab a piece of the sea to divide among themselves leaving Asean in the cold.
Do the Asean states know what is happening to their South China Sea? Most appeared to be like innocent school boys attending the Dialogue without knowing that their lollipops had been snatched away right under their noses. Stupidity has no cure.