Posts Tagged ‘ASEAN’

Philippine anti-drug agency chief vows ‘rule of law’

November 23, 2017
    • 23 November 2017
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron AquinoImage copyright EPA
Aaron Aquino is the newly appointed chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency

The new chief of the Philippines’ anti-drug agency has promised a fresh approach to the controversial war on drugs, “based on the rule of law”.

Aaron Aquino said that since he took over in August, only one suspect had been killed in 1,341 operations.

Thousands have died in the anti-drug campaign since it was launched by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.

Rights groups say Mr Duterte has sanctioned extrajudicial killings by vigilantes and by police.

In October 2017, Mr Duterte ordered that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) take over from the police as the sole agency in charge of the war on illegal drugs,

Mr Duterte and the Philippine National Police (PNP) claim there have been no unlawful extrajudicial killings by officers under the current government, and say any suspects killed by officers were resisting arrest.

But when asked by the BBC why he thought the PNP had been removed from leading anti-drugs operations, Mr Aquino said: “The PNP were removed from this war on drugs precisely because there are some issues against them.

“There are issues on some abuses, the so-called extrajudicial killings.”

According to police figures, 3,967 people were killed in the force’s anti-drug campaign between June 2016 and 25 October this year.

Rights groups estimate that thousands more have been killed by vigilante gunmen, and accuse the police of supporting the vigilantes.

The latest decision by the president followed a series of controversial killings over the summer, including that of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos.

The death of the student during a police anti-drug operation in August sparked protests outside the President’s palace.

Greater transparency

Mr Aquino said his agents would wear body cameras to film their operations, to prove they are abiding by the law.

“We want our operations to be transparent,” he said. “I told [agents] to ask the media to join in on the operations so they will see everything from the very start of the operations to the end.”

The PDEA say they have arrested more than 400 people over the past month and seized around $1m (£754,400) worth of illegal drugs.

Picture of Aaron Aquino at a drug raid
Mr Aquino at a recent drug raid destroying equipment used to cook methamphetamine

Despite the criticism levelled at the police, Mr Aquino said he would continue to seek the assistance of the PNP during “high level” operations.

He said he wished that the drug war would eventually handed back to the police, because of budget and staffing constraints affecting his agency.

The PDEA has around 2,000 officers compared with the country’s 165,000-strong police force.

This month, President Duterte indicated that he would consider reappointing the PNP to lead the war on drugs if there were no improvements on drug addiction levels in the Philippines within six months.

He said: “If things get worse again, I will say to these apes: ‘Go back to this job. You solve this problem of ours.'”

Recalled from retirement

Mr Aquino said that the president had personally said nothing to him before announcing his agency would take the lead on the drug war. He found out from the news.

“I just saw the president telling me, or telling the public that from now on… that he will let the PDEA be the sole agency in charge of the war on drugs,” he said.

A former Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Commander, Mr Aquino was appointed as Mr Duterte’s new anti-drugs czar in August, just two weeks before he was due to retire.

The two had worked closely for more than 20 years while Mr Duterte was the mayor of the southern Philippine city, Davao.



Philippines “War On Drugs” — Human Rights Watch warns of bloodshed if police return to drug war

November 23, 2017

During his speech at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija Wednesday, the chief executive said he has no choice but to bring back the lead of his drug war to the police force. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos should expect more bloodshed.

Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director Phelim Kine stressed this point Wednesday following President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that he will bring back the Philippine National Police on the forefront of his brutal war on drugs.

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Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director Phelim Kine

“The Duterte government’s apparent desire to resume the murderous drug war underscores the need for a United Nations-led international investigation into the killings. Until that happens, the number of victims denied justice and accountability will likely only continue to grow,” Kine said in a press release.

He noted that the resumption of police anti-drug operations was “not wholly unexpected.”

Kine said that Duterte might have been emboldened by the unwillingness of US President Donald Trump or fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders to criticize the drug war during the 31st ASEAN Summit.

ASEAN emphasizes non-interference in the domestic issues of its members.

READDuterte says he will return drug war lead role to PNP

During his speech at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija Wednesday, the chief executive said he has no choice but to return the task of leading the drug war to the PNP.

“But as of now, just to parry, I placed it under PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency). But whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police because, surely, it will increase the activity of the shabu,” Duterte said.

He said that PDEA might not be able to solve the country’s drug problem because it lacks manpower. The agency only has 2,000 personnel nationwide.

Last October, Duterte designated PDEA as the “sole agency” in charge of the war on drugs following the public outrage over alleged police abuse.

Jee Ick-joo case

Early this year, the firebrand leader was forced to suspend Oplan Tokhang after the kidnapping and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in the hands of some cops.

At that time, Duterte stripped the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation of authority to conduct anti-illegal drug operations and transferred the campaign to PDEA backed by the Army.

But he later on decided to tap the police again in the anti-narcotics campaign, citing lack of manpower.

Duterte’s war on drugs, which has claimed over 12,000 lives according to rights watchdog, has received strong criticisms at home and abroad.

The government has disputed these numbers. According to the latest #RealNumbersPH data release, there have been 3,967 drug suspects killed in government operations since July 2016. Government officials, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, said all of those killed were drug pushers.

The data releases no longer include information on “deaths under investigation,” a tally of murders and homicides that police have yet to determine motives for.

READDuterte brings back police into war on drugs


Summary of News About China’s Rise in the South China Sea

November 21, 2017
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A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.



Leaders of Southeast Asian countries and China have agreed to launch talks on a “code of conduct” aimed at controlling disputes in the South China Sea, a step they described as a milestone, but which some experts said was unlikely to bring concrete results.

The agreement reached during a two-day summit last week in the Philippines comes more than 15 years after the adoption of a preliminary Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which has yet to be fully implemented.

A separate statement issued after a meeting between leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that the approval in August of a framework for the code of conduct was “an important milestone,” and that both sides anticipated an early conclusion of the agreement.

What form that agreement will take is still undetermined. China opposes international arbitration over its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, and doesn’t want to see a future code of conduct given legal weight. Southeast Asian diplomats said even ASEAN is not unanimous in seeking a binding set of rules.

Gregory Poling, a South China Sea expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said China was well aware that the agreement would be unlikely to result in a framework for managing sensitive issues such as fisheries depletion, oil and gas development and coast guard cooperation.

“It took 15 years to negotiate a one-page outline that just restated the exact same thing they’re going to do with DOC,” he said, referring to the 2002 declaration.

China, Taiwan and four ASEAN member states — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam — have overlapping claims in the waterway, which straddles busy international sea lanes and potentially has vast undersea deposits of oil and gas.

The U.S. is not a claimant but has declared it has a national interest in ensuring that the disputes are resolved peacefully in accordance with international law and that freedom of navigation and overflight are guaranteed. China has opposed what it calls U.S. meddling in an Asian dispute.



Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper said authorities had ordered a halt to land reclamation work intended to expand the airport at the southern Chinese resort city of Sanya.

The paper said the project to build an artificial island next to the Sanya coral reef national nature was ordered to stop by the State Oceanic Administration, after complaints that it had not passed an environmental impact assessment.

The paper said the environmental group Friends of Nature has warned that the project threatens the sea floor ecosystem, particularly coral reefs in the area.

Boasting long stretches of beach looking out onto the South China Sea, Sanya has been heavily developed over the past two decades as a tropical vacation destination for Chinese and foreign tourists. The new airport on the 26-square-kilometer (10-square-mile) artificial island would be able to handle 60 million passengers per year.

China has been accused of causing serious damage to the natural environment in the South China Sea, especially ocean fisheries, through its construction of artificial islands atop coral reefs in the disputed Spratly island group.

The U.S. and others have accused Beijing of further militarizing the region and altering geography to bolster its claims. China says the seven man-made islands in the Spratlys, which are equipped with airstrips and military installations, are mainly for civilian purposes and to boost safety for fishing and maritime trade.



China is preparing to launch a new manned submersible to explore resources in the South China Sea.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the Shenhai Yongshi, or “deep sea warrior,” has passed all performance and safety tests, including a dive of 4,500 meters (about 15,000 feet) last month.

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Shenhai Yongshi

“Shenhai Yongshi will be used in the South China Sea and help explore the biological and mineral resources in the deep sea,” the official Global Times newspaper quoted Chen Xiangmao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, as saying.

Eight years in development, the submersible will join China’s currently operating deep sea exploration vessel, the Jialong, which has conducted dives in the deepest part of the world’s oceans, the Mariana Trench.

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Along with key shipping lanes used to transport some $5 trillion in goods annually, the South China Sea contains rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of undersea oil and gas.

Image result for Shenhai Yongshi, photos

China and Vietnam have previously clashed over resource exploration in the South China Sea, and China’s parking of an oil rig off Vietnam’s central coast in 2014 sparked confrontations at sea and deadly anti-China riots within the country.


Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippines: A lot of catching up to do compared to much of the rest of the world

November 20, 2017



STOCKHOLM — After a year of hosting ASEAN meetings culminating in the summits among regional leaders and with dialogue partners, the Philippines should be attracting more foreign direct investments and tourists.

Those are supposed to be among the dividends of hosting international gatherings, with preparatory meetings held the entire year.

Hosting a global event such as the Olympic Games or the World Cup means a nation – particularly the city chosen for the event – can compete with the best in the world. It’s a coming-out party, and in many host cities, the improvements undertaken to make the party a success become permanent: better roads, mass transport facilities and telecommunications services; cleaner, greener surroundings; more professional services.

This was the case when China hosted the Olympics in Beijing and the World Expo in Shanghai. There has been no turning back from being world-class.

The idea is not just to serve as gracious host, but to make the experience so memorable guests will keep coming back, and invite others to do the same. While taxpayers always gripe about the massive price tag for hosting any international event, the long-term return on investment must be so attractive that most countries that have already hosted events such as the Olympics keep vying for more chances to host them again.

The mark of an advanced economy is when it can host such events at the shortest notice, with minimal improvements required. Paris can host any global event with its eyes closed; so can New York, Tokyo and Geneva.

We’re still waiting for a chance to host our international coming-out party, prudently limiting ourselves to regional events. The rotating chairmanships of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have provided good practice in hosting world leaders and organizing supporting meetings throughout the year.

Unfortunately, many of the improvements for these events are as ephemeral as the trimming of the greenery along Roxas Boulevard for the recent ASEAN summit. And even if ministerial meetings in preparation for the summits are held around the country throughout the year, it doesn’t seem to help us catch up with our neighbors in many areas such as tourist arrivals, foreign direct investment and overall prosperity.

Here we are, one of the five founding members of ASEAN, and we’re trailing much of the rest of the region in several human development indicators. Never mind oil-rich Brunei; why are we now lagging behind Vietnam?

Last month, Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma came visiting, and was remembered for noting that our internet is “no good.”

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How can we expect return business when even internet service, now one of the most basic human needs, is spotty? The service improved around the ASEAN venues during the summit and related meetings, but now it’s back to its “not good” quality. As I wrote, the improvements from hosting events are not sustained.

*      *      *

I’m in this lovely Swedish capital for an international sustainability forum. Before I left Manila, Sweden’s Ambassador Harald Fries told me that 27,000 of his compatriots visited the Philippines last year. I asked: and how many Swedes visited Thailand? Fifteen times more, he replied. Bilateral trade is also “too low,” he said ruefully, as he promised to work on improving the situation.

Air connectivity would help, the ambassador said. I had to stop over in Taipei and then enter the Schengen zone through Amsterdam before the final hop to this city. Bangkok, on the other hand, has direct flights to all the major European cities, just like the other top ASEAN travel destinations, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

We already suffer from the quality of our airports when compared with the gateways of several of our neighbors. Executives of about six Swedish companies are holding a joint seminar in Manila with representatives of the Department of Transportation and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to discuss safety and efficiency of airports.

We’re now too far behind some of our neighbors in terms of airport facilities, but maybe we can end those chronic flight delays and improve air conditioning at the NAIA.

*      *      *

At least the airport now has free wi-fi. Mon Isberto of Smart Communications told me that the company is gradually replacing its copper wires with fiber optic cables, which make internet speed 10 times faster. Optical fiber also works best with 4G LTE.

Smart has also started installing smaller cell sites to dispel health concerns over telecommunications signals, although smaller sites also mean weaker service.

Copper was a compromise technology, Mon said. The speed of replacing copper wiring depends on the support and efficiency of the local governments. Last year Cebu’s Toledo City became the first completely fiber optic service area for Smart; the latest is Naga City.

Transformation is slow. Mon said installing one cell site, from processing of documents to completion of the project, requires an average of 36 permits from the national and local governments, the barangay and homeowners’ association. The entire process could take up to a year, after which Smart must secure a separate set of permits for transmission.

Mon says other countries consider internet service as a public utility that qualifies for fast-track processing. This is not the case here. The result is the kind of service that, when visitors compare with those in much of the region, becomes another disincentive to visiting the Philippines.

Internet speed is on my mind because Sweden happens to rank third after South Korea and Norway in having the fastest internet on the planet. As rated by Akamai in the first quarter of this year, Swedish internet speed is 22.5 Mbps for fixed broadband, way above the global average of 7.2 Mbps. Hong Kong ranked fourth, Singapore seventh and Japan eighth.

The Philippines’ average internet speed was 5.5 Mbps as of the first quarter. We’re way behind Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

We have a lot of catching up to do, and the task keeps getting more challenging as our neighbors do better.


Looking Back At Donald Trump’s Asia Trip: The Winner is China — Viewing a pathetic reversal of America’s defining role in the world as the voice of humanity’s highest ideals

November 19, 2017
 / 05:22 AM November 19, 2017

At the festival of summits to which the Philippines dutifully played host last week, three basic standpoints by which humanity describes and criticizes the state of affairs in the world vied for space.

The first is the human rights standpoint, the modern version of the value placed by natural law on human dignity and equality, which today is encoded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The second is the semantics of national self-determination, which became deeply entrenched in the era of decolonization. The third is the working-class perspective, which took shape in the last century with the rise of socialism, but is now mostly expressed as a critique of neoliberalism.

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These competing viewpoints were not visible in equal measure at these summits. But, the resonance of particular issues, alongside the muted presence of others, gives us a good picture of how today’s leaders are reacting to the complex problems brought about by globalization. These problems include the massive flows of migrants and refugees, terrorism, bigotry, uneven development and sharp inequalities within and across countries, mass poverty, ecological disasters, and war. They are problems that need the kind of global perspective for which multilateral talks might have been suited.

But, the hands-down winner in these summits has been the nation-state perspective — and the vocabulary of national sovereignty, noninterference, and peaceful coexistence, in which it is officially articulated. The other name for it is the Chinese template. Rather than global agreements transcending nation-state divides, what we find instead are the bilateral deals by which every country tries to secure from another what it needs for itself.

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No one could have formulated this standpoint more bluntly than US President Donald Trump, who had won the presidency on a campaign to put “America first.” Even as he railed at the glaring trade imbalance between the United States and China during his recent official visit to China, he ended up praising his host. To resounding applause, he declared: “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.” For the abysmal state of affairs in which the United States finds itself today, he blames Barack Obama instead.

Though it sounded like a backhanded compliment, his fawning comment on China’s behavior merely underscores the point that in the end it is the economic interests of their respective countries that matter most to these world leaders. Not surprisingly, Trump ended his China visit with about $250 billion in commercial deals between American and Chinese companies.

Trump’s deal-making pragmatism may appear to many as a pathetic reversal of America’s defining role in the world as the voice of humanity’s highest ideals. But this is a symptom not only of America’s decline as a world economic power but, more importantly, of the emergence of a world system without a center.

As Trump himself concedes, China has indeed become the model for today’s world. But, make no mistake about it. What this template represents is neither socialism (not even working-class solidarity) nor the primacy of universal values, but, rather, the advantages of a state-led capitalism with an authoritarian face.

On the side of the Asean Summit, there were separate summits with the United Nations and with the European Union. But, compared to the events attended by China, there was little interest in what was taken up at these meetings. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres would have been the logical interlocutor for human rights concerns. At the Asean-EU summit, he did speak briefly on the Rohingya crisis, drawing from his experience as former UN High Commissioner on Refugees, and called for humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya. But, while he expressed interest in helping to strengthen the Asean human rights commission, he avoided mentioning extrajudicial killings, speaking at length instead on the threat from terrorism and violent extremism.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who represented the European Union, took more or less the same tack in his address to the Asean leaders. He politely avoided any mention of human rights issues, and dwelt almost entirely on the need for international cooperation to combat radicalization and terrorism. This is in stark contrast to the human rights concerns persistently aired by EU delegations in recent months.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the only leader who was bold enough to bring up the sensitive matter of EJKs in his brief one-on-one meeting with President Duterte on Nov. 14. He did so in the most courteous way possible, prefacing his remarks with an admission that his own country is guilty of neglect and mistreatment of its indigenous peoples. Trudeau thought that he and Mr. Duterte had “a very cordial and positive exchange.”  But, after he left, Mr. Duterte wasted no time in telling the media what he thought of Trudeau’s human rights comment — “a personal and official insult.”

And so this vicious reaction unfolds, where any hint of criticism of another government’s treatment of its own nationals is treated as an insult and an affront to national sovereignty.  Given such a standpoint, one wonders how it is possible — except in the most limited terms — to express any concern for global problems such as the plight of migrant workers, of refugees, of children, and of the millions of victims of racial bigotry, religious oppression, and misogyny across the world.

Check out our Asean 2017 special site for important information and latest news on the 31st Asean Summit to be held in Manila on Nov. 13-15, 2017. Visit

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Trump’s ‘Indo-Pacific dream’ is working Asians’ nightmare
 / 05:00 AM November 18, 2017

It has been 16 years since the United States launched their “global war on terror” which, according to them, was an “action to end the waves of terror and chaos in the different parts of the world.” This was yet another lie.

A quick study of recent history since 9/11 would prove that it was not the obstruction or decimation of terrorists or jihadists that the United States focused on. But rather, they tactically used their “war on terror” in order to gain control of cheap raw materials needed to fuel their global economic dominance (Iraq, Libya), open up new markets (Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan) and strengthen their foothold on countries with strategic trade routes. This is what is unfolding in Somalia today and their objective in their continued interference in the Malacca Straits and in the South China Sea.

Ever since the Philippine-American War—a result of American businessmen wanting to establish a porting dock in Asia—up to the multiple, unequal and unjust trade and military treaties such as the Bell Trade Act (1946), the Cold War relic, Mutual Defense Treaty (1951), the circumventing Visiting Forces Agreement (1999), and of late, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that promoted our economic dependency on the United States, the Filipino people were, and still are, tied on an imperialist leash.

The Filipino people are tired of being treated as “little brown men” by our “GI Joe liberators.” All of the nation’s past presidents have succumbed to the imperialist agenda. Fostering our economic dependency on the West, politicians have bled us dry to pay for onerous debts the bankers promoted as “development projects,” placing us in the crosshairs of a nuclear Armageddon, placing our rural communities in peril for their extractive industries and giving undue privileges to their multinational corporations at the expense of Filipino workers.

When President Duterte promised an independent foreign policy, we were given hope that the status quo would change. However, the Filipino people have been deceived, again.

US President Donald Trump’s first visit to the Philippines in time for Asean’s 50th anniversary dawns a new era of exploitative policies and treaties; he calls it the “Indo-Pacific dream.” Trump recently outlined the administration’s overall Asian policy in his address to CEOs in Vietnam. He offered a general set of principles and interests that will unfold in the coming years, obviously designed to rival China’s Silk Road Economic Belt roadmap that Mr. Duterte has fallen in love with.

The supposed main thrust of Trump’s vision for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” is “partnership” with strong, independent nations willing to play by their rules.

Trump’s “economic security is national security” could only mean that imperial America will not sit idly as its throne as a global economic power is slowly eroding and is being contested by other superpowers such as China and Russia.

His “Indo-Pacific dream” is but a military and economic conquest for dominance in East Asia and Southeast Asia—the location of the world’s most dynamic economies since 2008. This is a blatant admission of imperial America’s true and unwavering agenda in the region. This could mean more deregulation, market liberalization and corporate takeover of social services.

Trump’s pipe dream is most certainly the working Asians’ nightmare.

JOANNE S. LIM, spokesperson, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan,

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How can Communist Vietnam be friendlier to the U.S. than to China?

November 19, 2017

There’s something ridiculous in Sino-Vietnamese relations – it’s a Trump-shaped wedge between the ‘lips and teeth’


Few things are more ridiculous in international politics than when a former enemy offers to mediate disputes between two former allies. But that’s exactly what happened when US President Donald Trump told Vietnamese counterpart Tran Dai Quang he could help solve the long-standing territorial disputes between China and Vietnam in the South China Sea. A little more than 40 years ago the two communist countries were comrades-in-arms against the US in the Vietnam war.

Trump’s offer in Hanoi on Sunday of last week came just hours before his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping began his second state visit in three years to the former communist ally. It also came soon after a summit in Beijing that highlighted Trump’s “bromance” with Xi. The leaders of the world’s two largest economies both visited Hanoi after attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in the Vietnamese port city of Da Nang on November 10. Trump’s overtures to Hanoi – which have the potential to antagonise Beijing – betray the fact that relations between Washington and Hanoi and Washington and Beijing are both stronger than those between the two communist former allies.

US President Donald Trump and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang meet in Hanoi in front of a statue of Ho Chi Minh. Photo: AFP

China and Vietnam were often described as being “as close as lips and teeth” during the era of their communist founders, Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh. China provided substantive support, including troops, to Vietnamese communists in their decades-long struggle for national independence. It was not until 1979 when relations were broken off following the outbreak of their border war. Ties were normalised in 1991 when both countries shifted their focus to economic development.

It’s time for Trump to come clean on his vision for Asia

In recent years, however, China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy amid escalating territorial disputes in the South China Sea have pushed the United States and Vietnam closer together, as Hanoi has moved to diversify its strategic and economic engagements.

Vietnam has also taken steps to improve relations with China’s other rivals – Japan and India – and consolidate its regional engagements bilaterally and through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Donald Trump’s head is silhouetted against the Vietnamese flag. Photo: AFP

Many people find it surprising that the Vietnamese are more forgiving to the Americans than the Chinese, despite the millions of deaths caused by the Vietnam war – sometimes referred to as the Second Indochina War – between 1955 and 1975. Recent opinion polls have suggested that the US is the most favoured country of the Vietnamese – and China the least favoured. Last year, a Pew survey found 84 per cent of Vietnamese viewed America favourably, up from 76 per cent in 2014; only 10 per cent of them viewed China favourably, down from 16 per cent. In a 2014 survey, 77 per cent of Vietnamese viewed Japan positively and 67 per cent saw India favourably. Polls by Pew also suggest nearly all Vietnamese people – 95 per cent – support capitalism. No other country polled was beyond 90 per cent, even the US. Some Vietnamese even imagine that if the US and South Vietnam had won, Vietnam would now be better off as it would be in line with capitalist societies like Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

President Xi Jinping with Donald Trump in Beijing. Washington has stronger ties with China and Vietnam than the two communist nations have with each other. Photo: AP

Apparently, many Vietnamese see the threat from the US as being in the past, and are happy to leave it in the past. But they see the threat from China as being in the here and now. Memories of the brief but bloody border war in 1979 linger – as do memories of China’s seizures of the Paracel and Spratly Islands, which Vietnam claims as its territory.

Opinion: Can Asia handle parallel rise of strongmen Xi and Abe?

Many Vietnamese point out the US invasion lasted just two decades, while Vietnam’s tensions with China have persisted for thousands of years, from a millennium of Chinese rule to the confrontations of the past century. Hanoi’s aim may be to leverage the two powers to maintain its non-aligned diplomatic status, but the balance of the scale appears to be tilting towards stronger relations with Washington than with Beijing. 

Cary Huang, a senior writer with the South China Morning Post, has been a China affairs columnist since the 1990s

South China Sea: Philippine Judge and Frequent Duterte Critic Likes Progress in Talking To China

November 19, 2017
By:  – Reporter / @MRamosINQ
 / November 18, 2017

Antonio Carpio

The Philippine government’s decision to negotiate with China on its own will not end the protracted territorial claims involving other nations in the South China Sea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Friday.

Nonetheless, Carpio said President Duterte’s policy shift to engage Beijing in bilateral talks was a “logical step” and a “positive development” in implementing the ruling of the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year.

Besides China and the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia are also insisting ownership over parts of the sea, said to be rich in energy reserves and marine resources.

“Clearly, the South China Sea dispute involves both bilateral and multilateral disputes,” Carpio said in an emailed statement to the Inquirer.

“A bilateral negotiation between China and the Philippines can take up only the bilateral disputes between (both countries) … and not the multilateral disputes involving … other states,” he pointed out.

Carpio, who has been championing the country’s claim to the West Philippine Sea—the part of the South China Sea within the country’s 327-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—noted that even nonmembers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) were interested in finding a final solution to the decadeslong sea row.

“The South China Sea dispute also affects nonclaimant states, both within (the) Asean (region) and outside (of it) … These nonclaimant states, which include the US, Japan and Australia, are worried how China’s expansive claim will affect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, for both commercial and military vessels and aircraft,” he said.

The magistrate noted that Beijing’s disputed nine-dash line asserted ownership of 85.7 percent of the strategic waterway where about $5 trillion in global trade transits every year.

The landmark decision of the international tribunal invalidated China’s nine-dash line and its argument that it had sovereign and historic rights over the disputed sea.

It also upheld the Philippines’ exclusive rights over its EEZ, including Scarborough Shoal, also called Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.

According to Carpio, the territorial row involving the Philippines and China is “intimately related to all the multilateral disputes and all the other bilateral disputes” as Beijing’s territorial claims are based on its nine-dash-line policy.

“A bilateral negotiation between China and the Philippines on the enforcement of the arbitral award will be a logical step as the award is binding only between China and the Philippines,” the magistrate said.

“However, this will not resolve the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines. Neither will it resolve the multilateral disputes involving China, the Philippines and other states,” he said.

Carpio, however, said that “any bilateral negotiation between China and the Philippines on the enforcement of the arbitral award is a positive development.”

On Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that Mr. Duterte had “articulated preference for bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks in resolving the dispute” when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Vietnam last week.

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China’s emergence as a “hegemonic” power a threat to all peace-loving democracies — Steve Bannon

November 18, 2017

Trump’s former chief counselor warns of China’s ‘hegemonic’ aspirations

MITSURU OBE, Nikkei staff writer

Steve Bannon, former chief counselor to President Donald Trump, spoke in Tokyo on Wednesday.

TOKYO — Steve Bannon, the former senior counselor and campaign manager of President Donald Trump — and a noted advocate of Brexit — is building networks in Asia to respond to what he claims is China’s emergence as a “hegemonic” power.

Bannon was in Tokyo this week meeting dissidents and pro-democracy activists from China, and developing sympathetic fraternal relations.

“I understand that people in this room have had tremendous suffering,” he said at one encounter on Wednesday. “People have been imprisoned, people have been unfairly [treated] in their own societies — pushed off to the side — and have lost economic opportunities.”

Bannon told his listeners that China and the U.S. are potentially on course for a collision unless people work together to prevent it happening. He likened today’s world to that of the 1930s and 1940s. He said Japan has “a special sense of what a tragedy can be” with its history from that time, when war with the U.S. and its allies followed from its expansionist ambitions.

“China intends to be the world’s No. 1 economic power by2035, and the global hegemonic power by 2050,” said Bannon, citing the address by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Communist Party Congress last month. Bannon called Xi’s three-and-half-hour speech “a wake-up call to the world.”

China was once expected to develop into a more democratic, liberal, and market-based society as it grew wealthier. “What we have seen in the last 20 years is anything but,” said Bannon.

“China’s leadership has no intention, ever, of joining the rules-based, international post-war liberal order,” he said. “They have their own plan.” Bannon described Xi’s speech as “more than a warning” to the West.

“It essentially says, ‘the Confucian, mercantilist, authoritative [sic] model has won, and the Judeo-Christian, liberal, democratic, free-market, capitalist West has lost,'” he said. “It couldn’t be more blunt.”

Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News Network, a controversial right-wing website that promotes an anti-globalist agenda among other things.

According to Bannon, China’s mercantilist behavior underpins spreading anti-globalism in Europe and the U.S.

“Brexit and the 2016 campaign in the United States are inextricably linked,” he said. “What links them is China. It’s the exporting of Chinese deflation and the exporting of Chinese excess capacity that gutted the industrial heartland of the U.K. and the upper midwest of the U.S.”

Bannon resigned from the White House in August by mutual agreement, but has still had contact with Trump, his former boss. He is considered the more confrontational of the two.

South China Sea: China Takes Control — “The sheer numbers [of Chinese] are starting to push the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, and the Malaysians out”

November 18, 2017

China is starting to dictate terms in one of the world’s strategic waterways, and the United States is largely missing in action.

A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaonin, takes part in military drills in the South China Sea on Jan. 2. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaonin, takes part in military drills in the South China Sea on Jan. 2. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

In his 12-day trip to Asia, U.S. President Donald Trump largely focused on North Korea and trade, all but avoiding the simmering disputes in the South China Sea and steering clear of sharp criticism of Beijing’s increasingly aggressive activities there.

With the Trump administration focused elsewhere for now, China is quietly pressing ahead with its agenda in one of the world’s most strategic waterways, building more military facilities on man-made islands to buttress its expansionist claims and dramatically expanding its presence at sea at the expense of its smaller neighbors.

Beijing’s under-the-radar advances in the South China Sea could be bad news for countries in the region, for U.S. hopes to maintain influence in the Western Pacific, and for the rules-based international order that for decades has promoted peace and prosperity in Asia.

At the Chinese Communist Party congress last month, President Xi Jinping cited island building in the South China Sea as one of his top achievements so far, and touted the “successful prosecution of maritime rights.” Those rights appear at odds with international law: Xi is now assuring nervous neighbors that China will offer “safe passage” through the seas to other countries in the region.

“The South China Sea has fallen victim to a combination of Trump’s narrow focus on North Korea and the administration’s chaotic and snail-paced policymaking process,” said Ely Ratner of the Council on Foreign Relations, who served as an advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden.

China’s recent advances in the South China Sea aren’t as eye-popping as the overnight creation of artificial atolls in recent years, a massive engineering project dubbed the “great wall of sand” by a top U.S. admiral. That’s one reason the disputes got pushed to the back burner on Trump’s big trip.

“Because there’s no sense of immediate or medium-term crisis (in the South China Sea), they didn’t make it a big priority on the trip,” said Evan Medeiros of the Eurasia Group, who oversaw Asia strategy in the Obama White House.

But experts say the quiet moves — including expanding military bases, constructing radar and sensor installations, hardened shelters for missiles, and vast logistical warehouses for fuel, water, and ammunition — are threatening to turn China’s potential stranglehold on the region into reality.

Much of the activity has centered on three reefs converted into artificial islands through large-scale dredging: Fiery Cross, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands, about 650 miles from Hainan Island in southern China. Satellite imagery in June revealed a large dome had been erected on Fiery Cross with another under construction, suggesting a substantial communications or radar system, experts say. At Mischief Reef, workers were installing two more domes.

With runways, hangars for fighter jets, and communications hardware in place on the artificial islands, China can deploy military aircraft and missiles whenever it wants, solidifying its grip over the area and flouting international maritime law. The three newly built bases in the Spratlys, combined with another on Woody Island, will enable Chinese warplanes to fly over nearly the entire South China Sea, according to Pentagon officials and defense analysts. That could be the precursor to an “air defense identification zone” similar to the one that China slapped onto the East China Sea in 201

And the new bases have given China much greater reach at sea. Beijing has deployed more naval ships, Coast Guard vessels, and a flotilla of fishing boats that act as a maritime militia virtually around the clock. The ships can now dock nearby to refuel and resupply, rather than sail home, extending their time on station and their ability to project Chinese power through the area. That is changing the balance of power as fishing ships and coast guard vessels from other claimant countries like Vietnam and the Philippines are elbowed away from disputed features.

This summer, for example, Vietnam hoped to drill for natural gas off its own coast. But China reportedly summoned the Vietnamese ambassador and threatened military action if Hanoi went forward with development in its own exclusive economic zone. Sensing little backing from Washington, Vietnam quietly backed down and stopped drilling.

“The sheer numbers are starting to push the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, and the Malaysians out,” said Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

More than nine months into the Trump administration, contrasts with U.S. policy under Barack Obama toward the South China Sea are apparent — as they are with the initial saber-rattling tone of Trump administration officials. The Obama administration put a focus on diplomacy and consistently sought to uphold international law regarding the disputed waterway, though it often shied away from sailing U.S. Navy ships through the waters to send a tough signal to Beijing.

The Trump administration has taken almost the opposite approach: Navy cruises to assert the right of navigation have become commonplace, but there is little sign yet of a concerted U.S. policy to diplomatically push back against Chinese encroachment or offer encouragement to U.S. allies and partners threatened by Beijing’s advances, former officials, experts and foreign diplomats said.

“By having no South China Sea policy, Trump ensures that all the initiative lies with Beijing,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center.

Former U.S. officials and congressional aides said the Trump administration appears to be pulling its punches on the South China Sea, as well as trade issues, in hopes of securing Beijing’s cooperation to cut off North Korea’s access to fuel and cash to fund its nuclear weapons program. So far, China has stopped short of drastic action to squeeze the regime in Pyongyang — and Chinese officials just contradicted Trump’s claims that the two countries have found more common ground.

At the end of his Asia trip, Trump did offer to “mediate” between Vietnam and China, but that spooked officials in Hanoi who fear they could be a pawn in a bigger U.S.-China game centered on North Korea.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on its approach to the South China Sea.

However, some former Obama officials are cautiously optimistic that the Trump administration, hamstrung so far by short staffing at key positions, especially regarding Asia policy, is starting to craft a more coherent policy toward the region, including a sharper focus on China’s activities in the South China Sea. Joint communiques in Japan and Vietnam stressed continued U.S. support for the rule of law and an end to coercion in maritime disputes, for example.

Ratner, the former Biden advisor, said he expects the Trump administration to chart a more proactive course as it settles into office.

“They appear to finally be getting their policy feet under them and I’m expecting more focus on South China Sea in the months ahead,” he said. “So it’s premature to declare it’ll remain a low priority going forward.”

Dan De Luce is Foreign Policy’s chief national security correspondent. @dandeluc

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China’s playbook still working…


Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

South China Sea: China Agrees To Start “Code of Conduct” Talks (Again) — A Project That Began in 2002

November 17, 2017

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 / 05:36 AM November 17, 2017

The consensus reached by the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China to finally begin negotiations on a Code of Conduct of parties in the South China Sea is a positive outcome from a week of summit pageantry, but it is hardly the breakthrough that China and its apologists, witting or unwitting, say it is.

In the first place, this code was promised 15 years ago; the last paragraph of the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, signed on Nov. 4, 2002, held that “The Parties concerned reaffirm that the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea would further promote peace and stability in the region and agree to work, on the basis of consensus, toward the eventual attainment of this objective.” The reason negotiations on the Code never took off was China’s strategy of delay. It had signed the DOC in the waning months of Jiang Zemin’s presidency, and despite the official Chinese policy of a “peaceful rise,” the presidency of Hu Jintao never accorded the Code priority. Under the much more authoritarian Xi Jinping, the “peaceful rise” policy has been shelved, in favor of an even more assertive, expansive nationalism.

Secondly, the negotiations will finally take place under circumstances redefined by China to be much more favorable to its interests. As the case that the Philippines filed against China at the arbitral tribunal was progressing, Beijing ramped up its land-reclamation and facility-building in the Spratlys; it successfully dissuaded Manila from using the landmark and sweeping legal victory of July 12, 2016, at the Permanent Court of Arbitration as leverage, and Vietnam from deploying more oil and gas rigs in disputed waters; it has—according to President Duterte himself—raised the possibility of war, contrary to the spirit of every single one of the agreements it has entered into with Asean; it has even enabled the initiative to write a so-called Framework on the Code of Conduct, another agreement touted to be a significant achievement but in reality is yet more proof of Chinese strategic delay.

Thirdly, the start of negotiations on the Code of Conduct early next year is exactly that: merely the start. How long the process will last, what form the document will take, and (the most important question) whether the Code will be legally binding, will all be largely determined by Beijing. Its strategy has paid off; delays have weakened the hand of the Asean as a bloc and of its claimant countries, even including Indonesia. To be sure, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hit most of the right notes at the Asean-China summit last Monday. “We hope the talks on the code of conduct will bolster mutual understanding and trust. We will strive under the agreement to reach a consensus on achieving early implementation of the code of conduct,” he said (according to a transcript provided by the Chinese foreign ministry).

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China H-6 bomber Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

Lastly, we must bear in mind the lessons of recent history. When they don’t meet its interests, China has learned to ignore the fine print of the agreements it enters into. The DOC itself, often used by China as proof of its commitment to regional diplomacy, has been repeatedly dishonored. Paragraph 5 of the Declaration begins: “The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.” This vital principle of self-restraint has not stopped China from converting seven rocks or reefs it occupies in the Spratlys into islands, capable of sustaining not only civilian life but even military operations.

The Philippines and its partners in Asean must enter into the negotiations on the Code of Conduct with these lessons in mind, and with calibrated optimism. The breakthrough lies at the end, not at the start.

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Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

No automatic alt text available.

China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.