Posts Tagged ‘rules-based international order’

Canada appeals for German backing amid Saudi rights row

August 27, 2018

The foreign minister of Canada, which is embroiled in a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia, called for German support on Monday in Ottawa’s campaign to promote human rights around the world.

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The German government, trying to repair its own strained relationship with Riyadh, has been silent on the spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia, drawing criticism from some politicians and rights groups.

Chrystia Freeland, speaking at an annual gathering of German ambassadors in Berlin, did not specifically mention Saudi Arabia in her address. However, she touched indirectly on the row which was triggered by her tweet demanding the release of jailed human rights activists in the kingdom.

In response, Riyadh has frozen new trade with Canada, expelled the Canadian ambassador and ended state-backed educational and medical programs in Canada.

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Freeland said Canada would aways stand up for human rights “even when we are told to mind our own business … and even when speaking up brings consequences”.

She added: “We count on and hope for Germany’s support.”

Ties between Berlin and Riyadh have been strained since former foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel denounced “adventurism” in the Middle East in November of last year, comments that were seen as criticism of Riyadh’s actions in the region.

Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador to Berlin and, since early 2018, has excluded German healthcare companies from public tenders.

Riyadh is at loggerheads with many European countries which have criticized its intervention in Yemen’s civil war and support dialogue with its arch-enemy Iran.

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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stressed at the conference Europe and Canada’s shared interest in preserving a “rules-based international order” in the face of U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateralism.

“It hits Europe and Germany when the United States, suddenly and without consulting, introduces random sanctions against Russia, China, Turkey and in the future perhaps more of our important trading partners,” he said.

Europe needed to become more autonomous in order to defend its commercial and trade interests, Maas said. “It won’t be easy,” he added.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt and Noah Barkin; editing by David Stamp


The Trump Doctrine Is Winning and the World Is Losing

June 16, 2018
Decades from now, we may look back at the first weeks of June 2018 as a turning point in world history: the end of the liberal order.

At a summit in Canada, the president of the United States rejected associating the country with “the rules-based international order” that America had built after World War II, and threatened the country’s closest allies with a trade war. He insulted the Canadian prime minister, and then, just a few days later, lavished praise on Kim Jong-un, the world’s most repressive dictator. Without consulting America’s allies in the region, he even reiterated his desire to withdraw American troops from South Korea.

By Kori Schake
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Such reckless disregard for the security concerns of America’s allies, hostility to mutually beneficial trade and willful isolation of the United States is unprecedented. Yet this is the foreign policy of the Trump administration. Quite explicitly, the leader of the free world wants to destroy the alliances, trading relationships and international institutions that have characterized the American-led order for 70 years.

The administration’s alternative vision for the international order is a bare-knuckled assertion of unilateral power that some call America First; more colorfully, a White House official characterized it to The Atlantic as the “We’re America, Bitch” doctrine. This aggressive disregard for the interests of like-minded countries, indifference to democracy and human rights and cultivation of dictators is the new world Mr. Trump is creating. He and his closest advisers would pull down the liberal order, with America at its helm, that remains the best guarantor of world peace humanity has ever known. We are entering a new, terrifying era.

According to the president, the liberal world order is a con job — he insists America is paying too much and being swindled by its friends. He wants the United States to pull back from its alliances and let its partners fend for themselves, and devote its money to its domestic needs.

Those criticisms resonate in a time when Americans are fearful of how the world is changing, and when the country’s leaders have done a poor job of explaining those changes and easing their impact on workers and their families.

Widening disparity of outcomes and fewer avenues of opportunity call the fundamental fairness of the current system into question. Terrible, costly mistakes like the Iraq war and the 2008 financial crisis destroyed the credibility of experts who are culpable for the failures but insulated from the consequences. And America’s allies celebrate the generosity of their social welfare systems and disparage ours, while spending less than America does to defend their countries.

These are all fair points, and they help explain the rise of Mr. Trump and the declining appreciation for a liberal order. But none of these things invalidates the importance of sustaining a system in which America benefits more than other geometries of order will permit.

Let’s review what, exactly, that order is. Beginning in the wreckage of World War II, America established a set of global norms that solidified its position atop a rules-based international system. These included promoting democracy, making enduring commitments to countries that share its values, protecting allies, advancing free trade and building institutions and patterns of behavior that legitimize American power by giving less powerful countries a say.

That last point is critical, and it is the genius of the system. America benefits from supporting others. The American security umbrella enables friendly governments to attract investment and grow peacefully. It encourages cooperation. The system allows America and other countries to share the costs of preserving common defense and the free movement of goods and people (although sometimes others put in less than Americans would like).

The world has never seen anything like this — a superpower constraining itself to such a degree — or the peace and stability it brings. America doesn’t always get it right; often it’s clumsy, fails to live up to its ideology, and breaks its own rules.

But the results speak for themselves. It has been over 70 years since the last great-power conflict. Democracies fight lots of wars, but they do not fight other democracies. The wars they fight are about enlarging the perimeter of security and prosperity, expanding and consolidating the liberal order.

The global economy has grown about sevenfold since 1960, adjusted for inflation. Free people and free markets have produced most of the strongest and most prosperous states in the international order, and those states have linked themselves through alliances, institutions and trade regimes that are mutually beneficial.

Contrary to the president’s core complaint, the American-led order isn’t that expensive, especially as compared with the alternatives. About 40 percent of America’s gross domestic product was allocated to the military during World War II. It now stands at less than 4 percent — not an unreasonable price for a tried-and-true insurance policy.

The president and his fellow critics argue that if America does less, others will do more — that its largess facilitates free riders. That hasn’t proved true with its closest friends: Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the United States has reduced its military forces in Europe by about 85 percent. But Europeans have even more significantly cut their defense spending, and become more tentative about the use of military force.

Far from emboldening allies, the American drawdown has made them less likely to act.

And if others do more, they may not be the right others, and what they do may not serve America’s interests. Russia has been doing more in Europe since the United States drew down, and more in Syria as a result of America’s doing so little.

China is doing more in the South and East China Seas, and its activities will greatly complicate American military operations in defense of allies, in preserving the free flow of commerce and even in protecting its own territory.

The Islamic State in part grew out of the United States doing too little to consolidate the gains of the surge in Iraq and caring too little about the Syrian government’s depredations against its people. None of these are outcomes that advance American interests.

Now imagine the longer term. China is already demonstrating that not only will it not play by the rules of the American-led order, but it also intends to write and enforce new rules. Absent American opposition, it will continue to force smaller, weaker states in East Asia into submission and expand its control over sea traffic. It will use technology to monitor, restrain and penalize critics worldwide. A Chinese-led world order would be one of privileges rather than rights, power rather than law, tribute rather than alliance.

That’s a very costly peace — if it even succeeds at sustaining peace. More likely, if the United States does not sustain the order, a rising power will eventually force it to defend its interests or succumb. That is what happened in every power transition except the one between Britain and the United States — an exception born of their democratic similarities, and one unlikely to be repeated with the United States and China.

Mr. Trump’s attack on the liberal world order is not just about the price America pays for it. He seems bent on destroying the friendships and respect that bind America and its allies. If he succeeds, America will be seen as — and may even become — no different from Russia and China, and countries will have no reason to assist America’s efforts rather than theirs.

America has been dominant for so long that it takes for granted outcomes that support its policies and interests, and undervalues the systemic advantages of institutions and norms. Yet Mr. Trump may end up proving an illiberal preserver of the liberal international order. By calling into question so many fundamental elements of the system that the United States built in the devastated aftermath of World War II, he is forcing Americans to imagine a world in which the United States does not tend the garden of international order, as George Shultz describes foreign policy.

Americans want an international order that makes them safe and prosperous. And no doubt this fall, when Mr. Trump gets his military parade in Washington, we will hear no end of boasts about American power. And during the midterm elections, we will hear all sorts of talk about how the president has made America great again.

But those boasts will ring hollow if, at the same time, America lets go of the world order that is its greatest achievement. Tending the garden that the hard men who fought World War II labored to create is a much less expensive undertaking than allowing it to fall into disrepair and having to recreate it.

Kori Schake is the deputy director-general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the author of “Safe Passage: The Transition From British to American Hegemony.”



China has built seven new military bases in South China Sea, US navy commander says

February 15, 2018

Beijing’s assertive territorial claims in disputed waterway is ‘coordinated, methodical and strategic’, Admiral Harry Harris says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 1:15pm

South China Morning Post

The commander of the United States Pacific Command on Wednesday warned of China’s growing military might, saying Beijing had unilaterally built seven new military bases in the South China Sea.

“China is attempting to assert de facto sovereignty over disputed maritime features by further militarising its man-made bases,” Admiral Harry Harris said in a congressional hearing.

Harris told the House Armed Services Committee that the new facilities included “aircraft hangers, barracks facilities, radar facilities, weapon emplacements [and] 10,000-foot runways”.

Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than a third of all global trade passes.

Harris said he saw Beijing’s assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas as “coordinated, methodical and strategic, using their military and economic power to erode the free and open international order”.

In the East China Sea, Chinese vessels have repeatedly intruded into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in an attempt to undermine Tokyo’s administration of the uninhabited islets.

Harris said the US alliance with Japan “has never been stronger” and that Washington’s alliance with South Korea was “ironclad”.

Harris, who is set to become the next US ambassador to Australia, also hailed the Washington-Canberra alliance, saying bilateral military ties were “terrific” and that Australia was “one of the keys to a rules-based international order”.



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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. 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.

Merkel Issues Warning to Trump Ahead of G20 Summit — “These will not be easy talks,” Merkel said.

June 30, 2017

BERLIN/WASHINGTON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to fight for free trade and press on with multilateral efforts to combat climate change at the G20 summit next week, challenging the “America First” policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.

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In a defiant speech to parliament a week before she will host a summit of the world’s top economic powers in Hamburg, the northern port city where she was born, Merkel did not mention Trump by name but said global problems could not be solved with protectionism and isolation.

Her remarks raised the prospect of an open clash with Trump at the summit. She later met with European G20 leaders who promised to present a united front in Hamburg, while making clear they preferred compromise to conflict.

“These will not be easy talks,” Merkel said. “The differences are obvious and it would be wrong to pretend they aren’t there. I simply won’t do this.”

The G20 summit will be held a little over a month after a G7 summit in Sicily exposed deep divisions between other western countries and Trump on climate change, trade and migration.

A short while later, Trump announced he was pulling the United States out of a landmark agreement to combat climate change reached in 2015 in Paris.

Ahead of the G20 summit, Trump’s administration has threatened to take punitive trade measures against China, including introducing tariffs on steel imports.

This has made for an unusually tense atmosphere before the summit and German officials acknowledge they have little idea what the final communique will look like.

Asked about Merkel’s comments, Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said the U.S. relationship with Germany was “as strong as ever” and played down the discord.

“Of course there are going to be differences in relations with any country, and we’ll talk frankly about those differences. The president enjoys those conversations,” McMaster told reporters.

The German hosts face a difficult challenge. Along with Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan will be attending. All have strained relations with Merkel and other European leaders.

The summit, in a convention centre in the heart of Hamburg, could also be disrupted by tens of thousands of protesters expected to descend on the city of 1.7 million.


Merkel said she was “more determined than ever” to make the Paris accord a success since Trump’s decision to pull out, calling climate change an “existential challenge”.

“We cannot wait until every last person on Earth has been convinced of the scientific proof,” she said.

“Anybody who believes the problems of the world can be solved with isolationism and protectionism is making a big mistake,” Merkel said.

Trump looks forward to discussing his economic rationale for quitting the deal during his G20 meetings, said Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser.

“He’s going to ask for a fair and level playing field. We cannot be in a position where the United States is cutting and cutting emissions while others continue to grow,” Cohn told reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron, in Berlin for the meeting of EU leaders, which included the prime ministers of Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain, said he hoped the United States would “return to reason” on climate. But he also stressed that it made little sense to try to isolate Trump in Hamburg.

“The relationship with the United States is a long-term one and it is deep,” Macron said. “I believe we must continue an intense dialogue with the United States because of these ties which are historic and enduring.”

At Macron’s invitation, Trump will visit Paris a week after the July 7-8 G20 summit for Bastille Day celebrations. They spoke by phone on Tuesday and agreed to work together to respond to any new chemical attacks from the Syrian government.

Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who chairs summits of EU leaders, said in Berlin that European countries would speak with one voice in Hamburg, defending the rules-based international order that Trump has called into question.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence and Jonathan Oatis)

Chinese Tabloid Riles Singapore in South China Sea Spat

September 29, 2016


A joint China-Russia naval drill off south China's Guangdong Province on Sept. 18, 2016.
A joint China-Russia naval drill off south China’s Guangdong Province on Sept. 18, 2016. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS
By Chun Han Wong
The New York Times

Tensions between Singapore and Beijing over the South China Sea moved to a new front this week: a tabloid newspaper.

Singapore’s ambassador to China has engaged in unusually public sparring with influential Chinese tabloid the Global Times over the city-state’s posture on regional maritime disputes.

The spat arose after the newspaper reported that Singaporean delegates at a recent international summit lobbied aggressively to add sterner language about the South China Sea to the meeting’s final communique. The requested wording, according to the Global Times, included references to a recent international ruling that rejected Beijing’s claims to certain rights in the strategic waters.

The report prompted the Singaporean envoy to criticize the Global Times, a popular Communist Party-controlled newspaper, for publishing an “irresponsible report replete with fabrications.” His protestations, however, were met with defiance from the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, who stood by the article and accused Singapore of “damaging China’s interests.”

The verbal duel is exposing anew a longstanding resentment in China, both official and popular, at Singapore’s perceived partiality in the South China Sea disputes. Beijing’s assertions of sovereignty to almost the entire sea overlap with claims from several Southeast Asian countries.

Though Singapore isn’t a claimant and has professed its neutrality in the disputes, the small island state has championed a “rules-based international order.” That has irked some in China, who see Singapore as siding with U.S.-led efforts to pressure Beijing into accepting the international tribunal ruling in July that rejected China’s claims to historic and economic rights in the South China Sea. Beijing has repeatedly denounced that ruling as illegitimate and void.

Criticism of Singapore has regularly appeared in the Global Times, which is known for its nationalistic views. In the past, the criticisms generally appeared as opinion pieces. Last week, a news report took Singapore to task with factual allegations about proceedings at this month’s Non-Aligned Movement summit.

Citing anonymous sources, the Global Times reported that the Singapore delegation lobbied in vain for the summit’s outcome document to include references to the tribunal ruling. The report said Singaporean delegates grew “exasperated” and made “hostile attacks” against other countries, while going on to challenge the summit chair, Venezuela, for not accepting its proposal.

Singapore’s ambassador to China, Stanley Loh, challenged the Global Times report in a Monday letter, saying it “attributed actions and words to Singapore which are false and unfounded.”

According to Mr. Loh, Singapore didn’t raise the South China Sea or the tribunal ruling at the summit. He said the proposal to revise the summit communique was made collectively by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which wanted the document to reflect regional concerns over recent South China Sea tensions.

“As Chairman of Asean, Laos protested on behalf of all ten Asean countries to the NAM Chair on its improper decision to reject Asean’s updates,” Mr. Loh wrote. He cited a letter penned by the Laos delegation to Venezuela’s foreign minister expressing Asean’s objections to the summit communique.

The Global Times’s editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin, defended the report and questioned Mr. Loh’s account. “As an ambassador based in China, you probably didn’t attend the meeting in Venezuela and weren’t a participant,” Mr. Hu wrote in an open letter published Tuesday.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman also waded in, criticizing “individual countries” for trying to insert the South China Sea issue into the summit’s outcome document.

Mr. Loh, the Singaporean envoy, refused to back down.


“Global Times did not attend the meetings and had to rely on information from unnamed sources,” he wrote in a Wednesday letter, adding that Singapore’s account “can be verified by the public record of the meeting.”

Has the ambassador had the last word? The Global Times published the Singaporean envoy’s first letter on its website Tuesday and in its print editions Wednesday, but didn’t mention or run the Laos delegation letter on behalf of Asean. As of Thursday morning, the newspaper hasn’t replied to the second Singapore letter, or published it.

—Chun Han Wong. Follow him on Twitter @ByChunHan.


 (On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said China “nine dash line claim” in the South China Sea was not valid. The court was also highly critical of China’s environmental destruction in the South China Sea.) (See Below)

Obama’s Infamous Pivot to Asia: Countdown to War in the South China Sea?

July 31, 2016

By Joachim Hagopian
Global Research

On July 12th, 2016 the UN arbitration decision against China’s claim of territorial islands based on “historical rights” ruled in favor of the Philippines, serving as the latest international war machine’s ratcheting up imminent all-out war. The United Nations as a globalist extension of American Empire’s dominance over the rest of the world is just another engineered US machination designed to instigate further conflict and tension as the latest face of Obama’s announced 2011 Asian pivot, pushing, prodding and provoking a high risk military showdown against re-designated cold war enemy China being potentially pinned in on all sides by US attempted aggression.

A recent example is Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s April trip to secure a military alliance with India, exploiting the strained Beijing-New Delhi relations over their mutual border dispute. Moreover, a visit last month to Washington by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi cemented the US-Indian military alliance in preparation for war against China. But with both the Asian pivot and the TPP stalling during this election year, a number of Asian countries are moving towards increased neutrality rather than buckling under to US Empire’s mounting pressures to align with the United States against China.

Over this weekend the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met at a conference in the Laos capital to decide how to respond to The Hague slamming China over the South China Sea dispute and, with nearly half the ASEAN members also contesting islands with China, aside from the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, the meeting ended up deadlocked. It’s being reported that Laos and Cambodia are unwilling to take a stand against China having been given recent Chinese aid and loans. And similar to Carter’s April India visit, John Kerry is opportunistically flying into Vientiane on Monday morning to apply his undue superpower persuasion pressing ASEAN to also formally back the UN’s decision against China.

With the Western elitist influenced UN proclamation rendering illegal China’s reformation claims in the South China Sea, the tribunal’s stiff ruling is being heralded as a much needed victory for the globalists and US Empire. The relentless assault on China in recent years simultaneously combined with the same propaganda war tactics and militarized threat being used against China’s prime allied partner Russia is producing an outcome that recklessly endangers every human life on our planet. The US-NATO-UN’s divisive agenda is a driving force racing us towards World War III against the two Eastern nuclear powers.

After ruling last year that it held jurisdiction despite China’s objections, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration earlier this month ruled that China does not possess any legitimate claim over dozens of contested islands in the South China Sea and that specifically the islands in the Scarborough Shoal located 140 miles (225km) from the Philippine coastline do not belong to China due to its deemed violation of UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). UNCLOS stipulates a 22km (near 14 miles) maritime boundary and legal access to economic resource development within 370km (230 miles). The Hague tribunal flatly rejected China’s “nine dash line” map that carves up the vast bulk of the disputed sea waters claimed as China’s historical precedent. The panel’s decision is non-binding and in fact illegal since arbitration requires both conflicting parties to voluntarily seek resolution. China never chose to participate. Thus in response to the ruling, the Chinese ministry claims, “The award is null and void and has no binding force.”

The Hague ruling charges China’s reclamation efforts as “causing severe harm to the coral reef environment,” violating the UN Convention. Funny how the UN never criticizes the US for wreaking total environmental havoc and destruction in the Pacific islands still under colonial rule in Okinawa Japan or the Marianas or Guam where the native populations and ecological habitats are being poisoned and wantonly degraded by Empire’s total disregard for local life and health carrying out its massive military operations. Again, US and UN exceptionalism and double standard hypocrisy rule supreme every time. And true to hypocritical form, while the US is busily admonishing China for its unwillingness to follow the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s finding, the US itself refuses to ratify the Law of the Seas Convention.

Though the legal challenge contesting China’s regional island claims were initiated in 2013 by the Philippines, actually it was the United States throwing its full weight around the globe despite its ocean’s width away. Not one Filipino attorney was a member of the legal team that filed the lawsuit to the arbitrator – all American lawyers from a high rolling Boston legal firm other than a small British contingent. Long before this month’s decision, China asserted that it would not comply with the UN ruling due to never recognizing the UN’s jurisdiction over sovereign maritime matters. China has consistently called for bilateral negotiations between China and Philippines as the only viable sovereign resolution to the territorial dispute. Even the recently elected Philippine president concurred that a bilaterally reached agreement is the most judicious option available to resolving the controversy. Under the previous Aquino administration in 2012, Philippine’s former US naval base at Subic Bay was reoffered the US Empire after the Philippine Senate in 1992 had ordered it off limits to US military due to repeated rape and murder cases of underage Filipina girls.

One of the elitist Boston attorneys handling the recent victorious case against China on behalf of the US, I mean the Philippines, in aWall Street Journal article earlier this year answered the question “what if China simply ignores a judgment that goes against it?” The attorney smugly stated that 95% of the time a losing nation complies with international maritime decisions, citing not wanting to jeopardize its world reputation and influence as factors leading to court ruled submission.

Given that the Hague tribunal is already rigged, over-stacked with representatives from imperialistic Western nations, and the fact that the UN has long played a prejudicial, criminal role actively or passively enabling the US-NATO aggressor to defiantly break every international law invading, occupying and otherwise warring against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Syria and Yemen just to name its half dozen short list, destroying nation after nation in its wake by willfully turning each into a failed state as the West slaughters four million Muslims.

Meanwhile, the sheer hypocrisy of US Empire’s exceptionalismpermits it to bully and pressure other countries into rigid compliance with international rules and UN mandates that apply to every nation on earth except the US. If America can thumb its nose at international law with complete impunity, in a lesser vein, China is simply exercising its inherent right as a regional power inasmuch as asserting a buffered self-defense against Empire’s continued long arm of targeted aggression directed against Beijing.

The US and its Pacific naval fleet have opportunistically placed itself as the “might makes right” enforcer for all the smaller Asian nations like the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan that also are staking claims to islands that China views as its own territorial possessions in the South and East China Seas. But astute writer-analyst Tony Cartalucci points out the deceptive cover the US is hiding behind:

Part of America’s agenda in the South China Sea is to provoke and then portray tensions in the region as being solely between China and its neighbors, with the United States feigning the role as peacekeeper – thus justifying its continued military, political, and economic “primacy” over Asia.

Just as Putin and Russia have been the brunt of a 24/7 propaganda campaign to demonize as the enemy, so too has China. A recent Council on Foreign Relations white paper titled “Revising U.S. Grand Strategy Toward China” further delineates Empire’s arrogant sense of entitlement in the form of its “primacy” and control over the Pacific:

Because the American effort to ‘integrate’ China into the liberal international order has now generated new threats to US primacy in Asia – and could result in a consequential challenge to American power globally – Washington needs a new grand strategy toward China that centers on balancing the rise of Chinese power rather than continuing to assist its ascendancy.

In January another hawkish DC think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) pounded the war drums, strongly recommending the US Empire deploy extra nuclear attack submarines and begin installing advanced long range missiles in the Asian Pacific in order to effectively combat China’s advancing military prowess as a direct hegemonic threat.

The bottom line is the imperialistic, unipolar powered US Empire will not allow China to assert itself even regionally. And because what CFR and its fellow warmongering think tank policymakers want, CFR et al always historically gets from its White House puppets. Beginning last October Obama began sending US Navy destroyers – cruisers three times now – to aggressively patrol and trespass within the 12 nautical mile limit of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea as provocative acts of war directly defying China’s territorial claims. A number of highly visible joint naval exercises between the integrated US 7th and 3rdFleets and Pacific allies Japan, Australia, Philippines and Vietnam have increasingly challenged China’s military posturing in the tension-filled region. The latest was last month’s with the US, India and Japan. The merging of the two US naval fleets comprise two thirds of all US combat vessels and is yet one more sign that the US Empire is once again heading the world to global war.

As if that’s not enough of an indicator that the world will soon be engulfed in military mayhem, at an annual conference last month held in Singapore labeled the Shangri-La Dialogue, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter threatened China “could end up erecting a Great Wall of self-isolation” should it proceed with its plans claiming the disputed islands.

To further attempt to intimidate China, Carter boasted that it would “take decades for anyone to build the kind of military capability the United States possesses.” Carter then named all the US allies in the Pacific it has in its pocket ready to go to war against China, starting with Japan and Australia, followed by Philippines, India, Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Laos. Next the general who is Japan’s defense minister accused China of challenging the US imperialistic “ruled-based global order.” Vietnam’s deputy defense minister sitting right next to the Chinese admiral in attendance bluntly warned China that if it refuses to comply with the UN ruling, it “would lead to military conflict.” The Chinese admiral’s response to the entire group’s overt threats was that his nation has no intention to retreat nor back down, having “no fear of trouble.” This foreboding lead-up to this month’s anti-China decision casts US Empire and its puppet allies inevitably on a perilous military collision course with China.

China’s “self-isolation” that warmongering neocon Carter promised, refers to the US plan to use its full spectrum dominance on the high seas by controlling the crucial narrow maritime passageway linking the Indian Ocean where Middle Eastern oil and near half of the world’s total cargo, two thirds of all natural gas shipments, a third of all oil and 10% of commercial fish catch, worth a total of $5.3 trillion annually flow through the South China Sea into the Asian Pacific. By interdicting and cutting off China’s supplied shipments of vital oil and critical raw materials, thus choking China’s lifeblood to either sustain itself much less win a global war, the US Empire foolishly believes it can deliver its checkmated blow to China. To further compound this increasingly dangerous, deteriorating situation, back in November 2013 in response to encroaching US, Japanese and South Korean warships, spy planes and fighter jets invading what China believes is its legitimate sea and airspace,

China launched an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) policy requiring non-Chinese aircraft intending to fly over the South China Sea to first request entrance into China’s designated airspace. US planes often defy China’s ADIZ. In recent months as tensions in the South China Sea have escalated, a growing number of too close for comfort encounters have ensued. US Empire’s imperialistic provocations are forcing China as the burgeoning regional, if not world power, to react to America’s unilaterally imposed game of chicken now being perilously played at humanity’s expense.

Obama’s infamous Asian pivot has everything to do with maintaining unipolar US global hegemony, going out of its way (across the earth’s biggest ocean) to flex its muscle in order to challenge, thwart and minimize China’s surging regional power at all cost. Washington’s primary agenda in Asia is to militarize, manipulate and coerce Japan along with every other Pacific nation into becoming China’s enemies, risking to war against both China and Russia with potentially disastrous consequences. Western propaganda portrays China as the regional bully, unwilling to submit to international law, while Empire has enjoyed its unchallenged role as the global bully for numerous decades.

An identical pattern has already taken place against Russia as US Empire actively recruited and transformed every former Soviet bloc nation in Eastern Europe into a hostile, anti-Russian Western bloc of NATO puppet allies. War criminal Bush one betrayed Gorbachev in 1991, reneging on his promise not to move NATO “one inch eastward” towards Russia.

This unabated global chessboard cheating to put the big squeeze to isolate and weaken Russia, China and Iran with hostile neighbors at their every doorstep has created an out of control arms race that has the planet dangerously teetering on the edge of worldwide war and total self-annihilation.Just as US foreign policy has ravaged the Middle East with nonstop oil wars for decades and engaged in divide and conquer balkanization of Arab nations designed to keep them weak and fighting amongst themselves per the Greater Israel Project, so too is this same ruthlessly self-serving, Great Game being played out currently in Pacific Asia for its vast, untapped underwater gas and oil reserves buried beneath the coveted South China Sea.

Empire’s naked neocolonial aggression involves exploiting unlimited energy resources anywhere in the world while neutralizing key enemies as America’s predatory, vested self-interest (or more accurately the parasitic ruling elite’s self-interest only, clearly neither America’s nor Americans’ nor any Asian countries’). Because the world’s only superpower has gotten away with raping and pillaging the planet at will for decades, Empire is banking on its retaining its global unipolar dominance for years to come by more of the same tactics.

But Washington’s megalomaniacal neocons’ rush to provoke confrontation and war with the Eastern powers totally fed up with Empire’s lies and insatiable one-sided lust for continued absolute world dominance, control and utter global destruction, carry grave risk of dooming humanity and all life on earth.

Clearly over the last several years the Western ruling elite’s agenda has ultimately been bent on triggering unthinkable levels of violence and earthly destruction between the forces of the West and East fought in every corner of the globe. Ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Empire a quarter century ago that left the US Empire the last superpower still standing, put simply, sharing global power in a bipolar world with Eastern nations runs counter to New World Order’s one world government tyranny.

Be it the US military, NATO or ISIS, all are simply malevolent tools misused by evil-minded globalists to promote planetary destabilization and destruction in order to usher in their New World Order. Their Great Game must be stopped. before it’s too late.

We citizens of the world must finally rise up and begin holding accountable the controlling psychopaths who’ve hijacked for far too long both humanity and our only planet we call home.

Joachim Hagopian is a West Point graduate and former US Army officer. He has written a manuscript based on his unique military experience entitled “Don’t Let The Bastards Getcha Down.” It examines and focuses on US international relations, leadership and national security issues. After the military, Joachim earned a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and worked as a licensed therapist in the mental health field with abused youth and adolescents for more than a quarter century. In recent years he has focused on his writing, becoming an alternative media journalist. His blog site is at


South China Sea: China will respond — and respond with a vengeance

July 31, 2016

No Escalatory Steps for the Time Being — China Will Hold its Fire in the South China Sea — Until September

By Harry J. Kazianis
July 30, 2016

Over at the Washington Post, acclaimed columnist David Ignatius takes on the always tumultuous tides roiling the South China Sea. Ignatius points out the scope of Beijing’s defeat in the recent international court case brought by Manila, noting that while most that follow professionally this important part of the world were of the collective mind China would lose in some fashion, but no one (myself included) thought Beijing would lose so badly. Score one for the “rules-based international order.”

But it’s what happens next that is key. And to be clear, China will respond — and respond with a vengeance.

However, as Ignatius points out, at least for now, while Beijing has only stepped up the rhetoric and seems content to take selfies of its bombers over what could be its next island reclamation project in the South China Sea, the hotly contested Scarborough Shoal, China is not exactly in a position to respond — at least not right now. But come September, the timing could not be any better for what could be a big reaction that the world might not even notice.

Why the delayed response you ask? The timing for a forceful reaction, at least in a strategic sense, is far from ideal.

Remember, Beijing is set to host the G-20 Summit for the first time on September 4-5 in the city of Hangzhou. Always looking to enhance its status as a rising superpower as well as play the part that China is the ultimate partner nation and never one to start trouble, Beijing will follow a carefully well scripted playbook in the South China Sea — lots of fiery talk and signaling, but no escalatory steps for the time being. China would not want to risk having any drama at this prestigious gathering — beyond what could occur already when it comes to tensions in Asia. Why rock the boat and lose face? Now is simply not the time for a squabble. I would argue Beijing has every incentive to hold its fire until after the summit.

But the plot thickens from there, adding more reason to the argument that Beijing is holding back for the right time to respond. Why not take advantage of the daily media drama show that is the US Presidential election cycle and save any escalatory moves in the South China Sea so they simply get buried in the news cycle?

There could not be a better time to start trouble in the South China Sea, at a time when the United States—truly the only nation that could really deter Beijing from troublemaking — will be very much distracted in the business of selecting its next Commander-in-Chief. American as well as global media will be very much focused on the battles to come between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, whether it’s the upcoming presidential debates or the latest scandal of the day.

Even if China were to declare a South China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or start reclamation work at Scarborough Shoal, there is a good chance it would get much less coverage when the world is following the every tweet, speech and controversy over the race for the White House. So for China, that might just be the best time to pounce, when the world’s collective gaze is simply somewhere else.

We must also consider this: with a change of power looming in America and uncertainty over who will win as well as additional uncertainty over what their positions will be when it comes to Asia, Beijing might gamble now is the time to move. It might also feel it could get away with a little more drama now against an Obama administration that wants to leave its time in office not embroiled in a crisis in Asia. As they say, timing is everything.

A Time to Prepare:

For China, there might not be a better time to raise tensions and cement their claims in the South China Sea. Oh what Beijing will you do? Or maybe a better question: are the nations around the South China Sea and in the greater Indo-Pacific region preparing? It seems they should.

Harry J. Kazianis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Center for the National Interest and Senior Editor at The National Interest Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter: @Grecianformula.

This first appeared in AsiaTimes here.

Image: Creative Commons.—-until-17201.


WASHINGTON — China suffered a significant setback this month in its bid for dominance in the South China Sea, and its leaders are following a familiar script after such reversals: They’re making angry statements but taking little action while they assess the situation.

The U.S. is playing a characteristic role in such a flare-up, too. Rather than crowing about victory, it’s trying to talk the Chinese leadership off the ledge before it does something rash. The chief hand-holder in this case has been national security adviser Susan Rice, who said in a blog post Tuesday after a visit to Beijing that she had urged Chinese leaders “to manage our significant differences constructively.”

“I reiterated that our overriding interest is the peaceful resolution of conflicts and sustaining the rules-based international order,” Rice wrote. This rules-based order was precisely what Beijing had been challenging in its recent moves to seize territory in disputed waters.

The rebuke to China came in a July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that shredded China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. The case had been brought by the Philippines, and it challenged China’s assertion of sovereignty within what Beijing calls the “nine-dash line.” The panel held unanimously that “there was no legal basis” for these claims.

“The fact that it went against China was not a surprise, but the degree to which it went so comprehensively against them was,” said Christopher Johnson, a leading China analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Kurt Campbell, who was the State Department’s top Asia expert in the Obama administration’s first term, agreed that the arbitration ruling was “clear as a ringing bell.” Although the Chinese had said beforehand that they would ignore the panel, and called the ruling “trash paper,” the rejection was so sweeping that the Chinese seem to have paused. The Politburo is gathering for its August seaside retreat at Beidaihe, where the leadership will assess policy before taking new steps.

The Chinese have refrained, at least initially, from one specific challenge of the ruling: U.S. officials had feared that if the Philippines case went against them, the Chinese would announce an “Air Defense Identification Zone,” or ADIZ, for the South China Sea, to further assert their sovereignty. The U.S. is said to have warned that such a declaration would be sharply opposed by Washington.

So far, no ADIZ has been announced, but some U.S. analysts suspect this may partly reflect China’s reluctance to make a decision about the scope of an ADIZ area. Claiming the entire territory within the nine-dash line as theirs would be provocative, but trimming back the sovereignty claim to something more manageable would be a loss of face. For now, it may be easier for Beijing to remain silent.

One success for China this month is that it convinced some of its Southeast Asian allies to block a resolution affirming the arbitration panel’s ruling. Secretary of State John Kerry sought such a consensus at an ASEAN meeting in Laos Monday, but he came away empty-handed. Most Southeast Asian nations strongly oppose China’s maritime expansion in the region, but allies such as Cambodia are said to have sided with China and blocked any official endorsement of the ruling.

A senior U.S. intelligence official offered this assessment recently: “The arbitration decision was, I think, huge. The news came, and [the Chinese] are doing their damnedest to get people not to say anything about it. But it’s out there and there’s nothing that they can do about that.”

The deeper problem underlying the South China Sea dispute is the increasingly assertive nationalism of Chinese President Xi Jinping. But here, too, the Chinese appear to have taken a step back from the public anti-U.S. agitation that immediately followed the ruling. State-run media initially blamed the U.S., and there were scattered demonstrations in which Chinese protesters smashed iPhones and demonstrated at KFC franchises.

One leading China analyst notes that the media agitation has now eased, with some commentators even criticizing “irrational” anti-U.S. fervor. “ That’s a signal the Chinese want to cool things down — a good sign indicating that diplomacy is working behind the scenes,” explains this analyst.

What a contrast there is between this delicate, real-life diplomacy and the blunderbuss approach advocated by Donald Trump and other critics of China. Despite Rice’s calming visit, the Chinese leadership knows that its U.S. relationship is entering an interregnum — and Beijing can’t predict what comes next.


 (Contains links to several related articles)

U.S. Navy Chief Says He’ll Keep Sailing in South China Sea



  (China always tells others what topics can and cannot be discussed)

Two Opinions on China in The South China Sea: China Is Trying To Correct “Many Centuries” of Wrongs Committed Against China — And The Philippines Should Sue China For $177 Billion In South China Sea Rent And Damages

July 16, 2016

China’s territorial claims are driven by a sense of historical victimisation. Now the historical victim has turned into a contemporary bully.

A Chinese ship and helicopter are seen during a search-and-rescue exercise in the South China Sea [Reuters]

A Chinese ship and helicopter are seen during a search-and-rescue exercise in the South China Sea [Reuters]

By Salvatore Babones

Al Jazeera


The judges have spoken: China has no legal basis for its claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea. China’s “nine-dash line” territorial claims, which cover most of the South China Sea, will not be recognised under international law.

Vietnam and the Philippines have historically administered most of the rocks and reefs in the South China Sea, but in recent years China has aggressively pursuedterritorial claims in the area.

Since 2012 China has engaged in large-scale land reclamation efforts on islands it controls.

The July 12 ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration resolves a case brought against China by the Philippines under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. There are no enforcement provisions in this convention, so there is nothing to prevent China from continuing to expand its presence in the South China Sea.

Aggressive actions

But China’s aggressive actions have alienated all of its maritime neighbours. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei all dispute China’s expansive interpretation of its maritime borders.

The South China Sea is thought to harbour large reserves of oil and gas, but these are mainly located in undisputed coastal areas, not far out at sea.
ALSO READ: Hague ruling could spark China-Japan row
And while the South China Sea is strategically important to China, all countries in the region share China’s interest in keeping it open.

Protesters throw eggs at a picture of the US president outside the US Consulate in Hong Kong to protest about the Hague ruling in Hong Kong [EPA]


China’s true interest in the South China Sea has much more to do with history and politics than with oil and security. The South China Sea dispute is not about China’s interpretation of international law. It’s about China’s interpretation of itself.

From the Ming to Xi Jinping

Chinese politicians and China scholars like to pretend that China is a timeless civilisation that dates back past the dawn of history.

But the real roots of modern China can be found in the Ming dynasty that unified the Chinese empire under Chinese rulers nearly eight centuries ago, in AD 1368.

It was then that China recognisably assumed more or less its modern borders. Perhaps more importantly, it was under the Ming dynasty that China first encountered the Western world, emerged from feudalism, and formed many of the basic social structures that persist to today.


Ming China had no serious challengers among its neighbours. Unlike Europe, where many small states vied for territory – and survival – China reigned supreme over its region.

Ming China had no need for well-defined borders because all of East Asia was to some degree under Chinese control, contained within China’s “tianxia” or system of rule.

When the first Portuguese adventurers reached the mouth of southern China’s Pearl River Delta in 1513, this system began to break down.

China’s Wanli Emperor enjoying a lavish boat ride on a river with a large entourage of guards and courtiers.
— Unknown Ming court artist – Paludan, Ann. (1998). Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors: the Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial China. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

At first the Portuguese were treated as just another minority group. Over time, the Western powers (and Japan) became more aggressive in asserting territorial claims.

Though they never conquered China itself, the Western colonial powers did carve up most of Southeast Asia.

They also carved up the oceans. Vietnam’s maritime claims in the South China Sea are based on old French colonial claims, and the Philippines traces its claims back to the Spanish colonial period.

Contemporary borders

Though the countries of Southeast Asia have every right to their contemporary borders, it still irks many Chinese people that those borders were drawn by others, mostly without China’s consent.
ALSO READ: China’s aggressive posture in South China Sea
The maritime borders of the South China Sea were set in stone (as it were) by strong Western countries at a time when China was too weak to contest them.

Now the Western powers are gone and China is the strong one, once again surrounded by a panoply of relatively weak neighbours, just as it was 500 years ago.

This must be very frustrating for Xi Jinping and the rest of China’s contemporary leaders. It is certainly frustrating for Chinese nationalists. But for good or for bad the borders are what they are.

Many Chinese people, perhaps the majority, feel that their country has been unfairly treated by history. They are probably right.

China is a great and ancient civilisation that experienced its weakest period just as the map of the world was solidifying into its current form.

Nonetheless, no one in Asia today wants to reopen the question of borders, not even China.


China has pushed its maritime claims over uninhabited rocks and reefs. It has gone so far as to install people on those rocks and reefs. But it has made no move to contest already-populated islands.

China may have been unfairly treated by history, but so were many other countries.

China may spend billions of dollars to populate artificial islands in the middle of the ocean. But it won’t change China’s history, and it won’t do much for China today.

China refutes the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and has vowed to ignore it.

The world shouldn’t pay much attention if it does. China will make no friends by changing itself from a historical victim into a contemporary bully.

Salvatore Babones is a comparative sociologist at the University of Sydney. He is a specialist in global economic structure.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.



 (China’s government needs to save face with the Chinese people or admit the long lasting lies)



 (Contains many links and references)

The Risks of Duterte’s China and South China Sea Policy

July 9, 2016

Attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last month, it was virtually impossible to have a conversation about Southeast Asian affairs without a reference to the now newly inaugurated Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the extent to which his foreign policy approach might depart from that of Benigno Aquino III. Unsurprisingly, the main area of interest in this regard was Duterte’s approach to China and the South China Sea, which will be important to watch in the following weeks after the verdict issued by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on July 12.

Newly Inaugurated Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Yet despite the flood of recent commentaries about Duterte’s approach towards China and the South China Sea – which, let’s be clear, has yet to take shape beyond a series of offhand comments and nascent policy proposals – few have sought to delve deeply into what he could actually do and what the implications might be. After some in-depth conversations both in the region and in Washington, D.C., I’ve published a long piece in Rappler that attempts to do just that.

In that piece, I argue that the danger is not that Duterte will open bilateral talks with Beijing on the South China Sea or undertake major foreign policy realignments like moving the Philippines closer to China, contrary to what some have argued. As seasoned observers of Philippine foreign policy know, even members of the former Aquino administration – including his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario – have made clear that Manila had pursued the PCA case in response to China’s unlawful assertiveness, but always left open the possibility of future talks with Beijing following the verdict.

As for the fear about Duterte moving closer to China, every Southeast Asian state is trying to pursue good ties with China to varying degrees in spite of concerns about its rise, so we should not be surprised that new leaders in the region will try to explore that possibility. Furthermore, despite Duterte’s tough talk, we should not lose focus of the fact that structural factors – including popular opinion and the Philippines’ weak military – as well as the actions of major powers themselves, condition Manila’s alignments and will constrain attempts by leaders to suddenly veer in one direction or another.

The real risks of Duterte’s approach towards China and the South China Sea, then, lie not in whether he talks to China or moves the Philippines closer to Beijing than under Aquino, but how he does so. Specifically, the true danger of Duterte’s approach to China and the South China Sea is that his administration will seek to engage Beijing in a way that not only undermines Philippine interests in terms of its relationship with China, but undercuts the regional unity and global solidarity needed to constrain Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.

The piece details the risks in the bilateral, regional and global contexts, and they are worth summarizing briefly here so we can get a full picture. Bilaterally, the risk is that Duterte will approach China and the South China Sea in a way that undermines Philippine interests, including through policy missteps that reduce the country’s leverage vis-à-vis Beijing or policy approaches that are more favorable to China than they are to the Philippines. On the first count, by sending out overly positive signals to China before the verdict – including a desire to pursue joint development, accept Chinese infrastructure projects, downplay the PCA case, avoid military actions, and adopt a more lukewarm stance towards the United States – Duterte has already arguably undermined the Philippine position by signaling he is leaning in the direction of concessions without being clear about the conditions for them to occur or any idea as to how strong Manila’s hand will be after the ruling. This can lead China to overestimate its position and underestimate that of the Philippines, affecting the extent to which Beijing is willing to compromise in any negotiation.

Though less probable, the other possible risk is that Duterte’s initial outreach to China translates into an overly narrow economics-first approach towards Sino-Philippine relations on terms more favorable to Beijing than Manila. Such an approach would see both sides not only boost economic ties but also conclude suspicious infrastructure projects and perhaps even questionable joint development arrangements while shelving the South China Sea dispute. As Philippine watchers know, joint development in particular has a bad name in the country as it is associated with the approach taken by Aquino’s predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. At the time, a controversial joint development deal in the South China Sea inimical to Manila’s interests was cut with Beijing in exchange for Chinese-backed infrastructure projects, which ended up being embroiled in one of the largest corruption scandals in Philippine history. It is not unreasonable to expect that this could end up being a source of domestic opposition to Duterte in addition to a number of other fronts where he may challenge the established elite.

Duterte’s approach could have consequences beyond the Philippines as well. Regionally, Duterte’s position on China and the South China Sea also risks undermining ASEAN unity and centrality, not just after the PCA verdict but further out if Beijing continues its attempts to divide the regional grouping. Over the past few years, the Philippines has been by far the most forward-leaning of the four Southeast Asian claimants on the South China Sea issue, which is important not just for its own sake but also within the context of ASEAN since this helps provide ‘cover’ for interested parties who are not claimants (like Singapore) to call for more aggressive action and pushes back against laggards (most notably Cambodia).

ASEAN flags having trouble hanging together?

If the Philippines suddenly adopts a much softer line on China and the South China Sea, it could see other Southeast Asian states also adopt a softer line, either because this is in line with their own traditional preference to downplay the issue or because they find it diplomatically difficult to get ahead of ASEAN’s most-forward-leaning claimant. That will not bode well for ASEAN, which is already facing a challenging year on the South China Sea issue with the triple challenges of grappling with the fallout from the PCA decision, managing the ASEAN-China relationship during the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the dialogue partnership; and being led by Laos, a landlocked country with little interest in the South China Sea and a lot invested in its relationship with China.

One critical early test of how Duterte’s approach feeds into regional outcomes will be during the next round of ASEAN summitry from 21-25 July, just days after the PCA verdict, where the world will be watching to see if ASEAN can issue a separate statement on this important decision, as many ASEAN advocates hope, as opposed to a standard communique (or, perhaps, not even that). But the role of the Philippines will be important further out as well. As the Philippines officially assumes the rotating annual ASEAN chairmanship which Laos holds in 2017, it will give Manila an additional opportunity to affect regional outcomes on the South China Sea amongst other issues. As ASEAN chair, Manila will likely be subject to the routine mix of charm and pressure from Beijing in the lead up to and during its chairmanship, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Globally, the risk is that Duterte’s approach undermines ongoing international efforts designed to counter Beijing’s assertiveness. Though China has gained in some ways from its South China Sea actions, in reality Beijing’s behavior has also led regional states to strengthen their ties with other powers and prompted other countries to take an interest in the issue, helping knit together an ever-widening group of concerned global actors who are willing to stand against Chinese transgressions and for the rules-based international order. But the strength of this group – which U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has called a ‘principled security network,’ is partly derived from the contributions of claimant states like the Philippines, which is important not just in terms of capabilities, but how actions are calibrated. Indeed, without Manila’s role in recent years – be it filing the case or inking a new defense pact with Washington to give it access to strategic military facilities in the Philippines – this global effort would not be nearly as strong as it is today.

A pullback by Manila on its stance towards China and the South China Sea under Duterte – especially if done in a sudden and unjustified manner – could undercut the emergence of such a global coalition. While there are several ways this could occur, two are particularly notable. First and most obviously, without Philippine activism, other interested states may have to either scale down their words and actions or risk bolstering the Chinese claim that ‘outside actors’ are stirring up trouble in the South China Sea even though Beijing is patching things up with Manila.

Second, it would send a dangerous message to some in Beijing about how a rising power conducts itself in the international system. Given the extent of Chinese assertiveness directed at the Philippines in recent years and the threats they have posed not only to Manila’s interests but also the rules-based international order more generally, simply wiping the slate clean would reinforce the thinking of more hawkish voices in Beijing that while China’s South China Sea actions may lead it to incur some short-term costs, its military and economic might means it can simply absorb them for a while and then look to recover its losses by charming those it had previously coerced. If Chinese policymakers are convinced that this is the case, the conclusion that could follow from that is that the key for Beijing is not abiding by the rules-based international order like most countries would like it to, but calibrating its opportunistic efforts to reshape and even defy it through alternating periods of coercion and charm to balance attendant costs and benefits.

This is just a short summary of the much longer piece, and I’d encourage you to read the full thing here. The bottom line, though, is that we need a more detailed and nuanced conversation about the real risks that Duterte’s approach towards China and the South China Sea poses not just for the Philippines, but for the region and the world as well. Simplistic assessments misstate and in some ways underestimate these risks. And as I conclude in the piece, scholars, experts, and policymakers, including Duterte and his advisers, would do well to grasp the full picture of the costs and benefits of various approaches before taking steps that could ultimately prove misguided.


 (Will China respect international court’s South China Sea decision?)

In this photo released by the Office of the City Mayor of Davao City, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, right, receives a copy of the book on Chinese President Xi Jinping from Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua during a courtesy call in Davao City in the southern Philippines, Monday, May 16, 2016. Office of the City Mayor Davao City via AP, file

Can Asean Respond to South China Sea Arbitration Decision With United Front? Don’t all Asean members believe in rules-based regional and international order?

July 7, 2016


By Prashanth Parameswaran
The Straits Times

On July 12, The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) will finally issue a much-anticipated verdict on the Philippines’ South China Sea case against China. Once the verdict is issued, the world will be looking to see how various actors react, including Asean, of which Manila is a member.

In this context, eyes will be on whether Asean as a bloc chooses and is able to adopt a separate joint statement in response to the PCA ruling.

This would be in addition to the range of other expected responses by the grouping and its members, be it including the general language in a few paragraphs of its joint communique at the upcoming Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in late July or leaving individual countries to issue their own statements as they see fit.

Though each of these other responses has its merits as well, there is a strong case to be made for Asean to issue a separate joint statement as a regional grouping in response to the PCA ruling.

Before stating the case for a separate statement, it is important to clarify what is meant and not meant by it. Contrary to what some might suggest, by calling for a separate statement following the PCA verdict, no one with any knowledge of Asean reasonably expects the regional grouping to side with a particular country or even back the outcome of the case in that statement. Rather, the focus of that statement should ideally be on how Asean welcomes any attempt by anyone (including the Philippines) to pursue the peaceful, lawful resolution of disputes and reiterates the need for everyone (including China) to respect legal and diplomatic processes without resorting to force.

Issuing such a statement is clearly in the interest of the regional grouping. First and most obviously, even though only four Asean states are claimants in the South China Sea disputes, all 10 of them have an interest in seeing these disputes resolved peacefully and lawfully rather than through the use of force, and ensuring that basic principles like the freedom of navigation and overflight are protected. The South China Sea is the lifeblood of the region, with more than US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) worth of international shipping trade passing through it annually.

Relatives of the crew of the Philippine navy’s BRP Tarlac out to welcome the arrival of the first strategic sealift vessel in Manila in May. The BRP Tarlac will serve as the navy’s floating command and control ship as the country modernises its fleet amid tensions in the South China Sea. AFP photo


More broadly, the rules-based regional and international order, which includes the PCA, is the only thing that protects the rights and privileges of all states large and small – from China to Laos – and provides the peaceful, stable foundation for economic growth to occur. Indeed, the notion that certain states may conclude that their strong economic ties with China prevent them from supporting such a statement is rather ironic, since they would be failing to defend the very principles that allow their economic growth and the choices therein to occur in the first place.

Second, Asean as a grouping has an interest in demonstrating its unity in the face of this rather divisive issue. The past few years have witnessed Asean’s growing maturity, acknowledged by its rising role in the shaping of the regional architecture as well as the intensifying involvement of major powers in the sub-region. But these trends have also made the liabilities of Asean’s institutional features more visible and threatened the grouping’s much prized centrality, presenting what former Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan has called an “existential challenge”.

Nowhere is this more evident than on the South China Sea issue, where pressure by external powers has exacerbated Asean divisions and led to statements not being issued, be it in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2012 or more recently at the foreign ministers’ meeting in Yuxi, China, last month.

The adoption of a joint statement would be a powerful demonstration of Asean’s ability to confront the South China Sea issue during this moment of international scrutiny. It would send a clear message that Asean is able to tackle even the most vexing regional and global challenges and further cement its position as the fulcrum of Asia’s architecture.

This is especially the case given the triple challenges the grouping faces on that front this year: contending with the PCA ruling; managing Asean-China relations during the 25th anniversary of the dialogue partnership; and being led by this year’s chair Laos, a landlocked country that has little interest in the South China Sea and a lot invested in its relationship with Beijing.

While issuing a separate statement on the upcoming PCA decision would be a significant move in line with Asean’s interests, it would also be far from unprecedented. In fact, one of the strongest arguments in favour of such a statement is that there is precedent both for the issuance of such statements in general as well as the specific language that might be used in this particular case.

On the former, Asean has already been issuing statements on matters of regional and global importance over the years apart from its usual joint communiques.

Following North Korea’s missile testing on Jan 6, Asean foreign ministers issued a short two-paragraph statement on Jan 8 reiterating the importance of peace and security on the Korean peninsula as well as their support for denuclearisation.

On the South China Sea, in May 2014, Asean foreign ministers issued a brief statement expressing “serious concerns” over ongoing developments in the South China Sea. This was done under the chairmanship of Myanmar, a country that, like Laos, has little interest in the issue as well.

With respect to the specific language that might be in such a separate statement, Asean has already been adopting statements that contain the kind of wording that might comprise it. At the US-Asean Sunnylands Summit back in February, the joint statement agreed by all 10 Asean states did not just refer to general principles related to the South China Sea but the importance of “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes without resorting to the threat or use of force”, a clear reference to the need for both China and the Philippines to abide by the PCA verdict. The Asean media statement that was initially agreed on by all 10 South-east Asian countries last month also contained similar language.

Even though it is clear that adopting a separate statement would be in Asean’s interests and would be far from unprecedented, the regional grouping may well choose not to adopt a separate statement for any number of reasons. If so, it should at least ensure that the language in its next expected joint communique – after the 49th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane in late July – does not walk back on what Asean has been referencing in its statements so far this year. Beyond the content of these statements, preparations also need to be made by South-east Asian states to ensure that consensus does not break down at the last minute. Asean simply cannot afford another Phnom Penh under Laos’ chairmanship.

  • Prashanth Parameswaran is associate editor of The Diplomat magazine based in Washington, DC and a doctoral candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University researching on South-east Asia, Asian security issues and US foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific.
  • S.E.A. View is a weekly column on South-east Asian affairs.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2016, with the headline ‘Asean should be ready with joint statement on S. China Sea arbitration’.



Chinese coast guard ship in the East China Sea. AFP photo provided by Japan’s coast guard