President-elect Donald Trump still hasn’t made his foreign policy objectives clear, but his senior adviser on national security says the the United States won’t abandon its Asian allies to China’s “overreach.”
James Woolsey, in an opinion piece published in the South China Morning Post on Thursday, said the new administration would need to reverse defense budget cuts and make sure the U.S. was still the leading military force in the world.
“The U.S. sees itself as the holder of the balance of power in Asia and is likely to remain quite determined to protect its allies against Chinese overreach,” said Woolsey, who served as CIA director under President Bill Clinton. “China should realize that our reflexes in Asia are not driven by territorial ambitions.”
Over U.S. objections, Beijing has moved to cement its claim to most of the South China Sea, including by building artificial islands and military airstrips atop coral reefs. With Trump’s election, many analysts said Trump’s isolationist foreign policy will give China more maneuvering room to pursue its territorial claims in the East and South China seas.
During the election campaign, Trump in April said that China’s building of man-made islands in the disputed waters was a sign of Beijing’s disrespect for America.
The new Philippine ambassador to China, meanwhile, said it’s possible to achieve a settlement with Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.
Jose Santiago “Chito” Santa Romana says his country could learn from Vietnam and the former Soviet Union, which managed to reach a detente with China through good political relations and quiet diplomacy despite quarrels over territory.
Vietnam, however, continues to be entangled in the dispute over the Paracel Islands while making progress with China over other border issues.
“The basic lesson is, if you use hardball tactics with China, expect the same. … So when you say, ‘What is ours is ours,’ they will say the same thing. And if you don’t yield, and if you combine it with just megaphone diplomacy and forcing your way, expect that there’ll be a stalemate,” he said at a forum in Manila organized by the state-run China Daily.
He said the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte is separating the disputes from economic relations with Beijing.
Duterte’s groundbreaking visit to Beijing resulted in China allowing Filipino fishermen back in the waters around the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which China seized from the Philippines in 2012, a year before Manila launched and won an international arbitration case against China’s claims.
However, China’s coast guard has remained at the shoal and Filipinos are not allowed to fish inside the lagoon. — Hrvoje Hranjski, AP
Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal
Chinese fishing fleet
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid.
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