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Asean Affairs  28  January 2011

US backing Philippines in South China Sea

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     28 January 2011

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In a strategic and certainly controversial move, the United States is giving support to the Philippines in the ongoing territorial dispute that the Philippines has with China in the South China Sea over the Spratly slands.

The US plans to help increase the Philippines “maritime capacity” as the Spratlys are believed to be rich in oil, mineral and gas deposits.

The first step is a meeting being held in Manila today to discuss how the Philippines can patrol the waters around the Spratlys to reinforce its territorial claims.

Often diplomatic words are just words. But in 2010 Secretary of State Hilary Clinton backed up the Asean countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam) that have claims in the South China Sea in their position of asking for multilateral negotiations involving all parties to solve the dispute.

The latest move signifies the US intentions are real and given that it comes shortly after the meeting of US President Obama and China’s leader Hu Jintao, the US move is even more interesting. There is no timeframe on when this dispute can or will be settled.

China wants unilateral talks with each of the claimants, while the US backs the Asean claimants in supporting multilateral negotiations. Both China and the US appear unwilling to change their positions.

The South China Sea situation also makes the Asean countries uneasy about China’s regional intentions.

The South China Sea is one of the interesting subplots in the China-US dialogue and may go on for years.

Who takes the next step?

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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04 January 2011
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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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