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Of the five challengers to Chinese claims, the Philippines is the most active proponent of a multilateral approach to solving the issues. Manila took the initiative a few weeks ago to solidify support for that stance within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states.

After Japan echoed the Philippines proposal, China’s government angrily denounced multilateralism as a heresy in solving international disputes like this one.

Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.