An old joke has it that there are three common disingenuous statements: "Of course I will respect you in the morning," "The check is in the mail" and "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

For countries with security interests in the South China Sea, there are now several similar whoppers that appear frequently in relevant countries' rhetoric regarding those issues — all shaped by and having implications for the political domain. Indeed, one factor complicating and confusing the issues there is the deceit and hypocrisy of nearly all the claimants and major actors.

Omissions and commissions in their proselytizing range from misinformation or "white lies" to disinformation to glaring gaps between what a nation says and does. The ASEAN leaders will gather this week at a "special" summit with President Barack Obama in California to discuss among others the South China Sea situation. They may wish to seek agreement on the meaning of some of the key words and concepts regarding the issues and check to see if they are on the same page — or not.