Hot mics and hot topics at IMF panel

At the International Monetary Fund's headquarters, managing director Christine Lagarde is participating in a BBC World debate on the parlous state of the world economy. Alas, the event began streaming live on the IMF homepage as final preparations for the broadcast were still underway. Lagarde could be heard chatting with former Obama economic advisor Austan Goolsbee about his confirmation hearing (only two senators showed up, he said). Asked by someone to speak for a sound check, Lagarde first counted to five and then could be heard to say, "you're very good looking!" A wisecrack, undoubtedly, but oddly chosen.

The Multilateralist

The Philippines becomes hub of South China Sea diplomacy

Voice of America reports here that a meeting of south Asia maritime experts affiliated with ASEAN is underway today in the Philippines:

Maritime experts from across Southeast Asia are meeting in Manila to discuss a Philippine proposal for avoiding future conflicts in the South China Sea.

The group's findings will be passed to senior officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, who will make recommendations ahead of an ASEAN summit in November.

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay told the experts he is optimistic their work will finally ease tensions in the South China Sea, where China, Taiwan and four ASEAN countries have overlapping claims.

But two Philippine diplomats told the Associated Press that Manila has received objections to the two-day meeting from China, which claims the entire South China Sea as its own.

The report adds to evidence that the Philippines is emerging as a center of multilateral diplomacy on the South China Sea. The Associated Press reports that Japanese officials met recently with Philippine diplomats to discuss Japan's involvement in the issue:

Philippine and Japanese diplomats recently discussed in Tokyo the need to ensure that the disputes are resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law. The Philippines proposed that the two countries set up a "permanent working group" that would regularly tackle the disputes and other Asian maritime concerns, a Philippine official said Tuesday.