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Asean Affairs    5 August  2011

South China Sea dispute still unstable

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     5  August 2011

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Following news from Vietnam earlier this week that China and Vietnam had an amicable meeting and had resolved to settle issues in the South China Sea “peacefully,” China’s state controlled media lashed out in the direction of the Philippines today.

In an editorial in the China Daily, China accused manila of infringing “China’s territorial integrity” and went on to say that the Philippines could pay a “high price” for making a wrong call.  The editorial followed a weekend report in a Philippine newspaper that stated the Philippine navy would soon complete a shelter to “protect troops” on an island claimed by both countries.

The island is part of the Spratly chain and is called Patag by the Philippines and Feixin by China. That part of the Spratlys is also claimed by Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The continuing series of incidents in the South China Sea only emphasizes the sincere desire of each of the six countries, including China, to stake a claim on the rich hydrocarbon resources that supposedly lie underwater in the sea. The sea is also one of the most heavily traveled maritime routes in the world, an important component of east-west commerce.

The Philippine navy is also  awaiting the arrival of a newly purchased US-built coast guard ship which would be used to "secure natural resources" -- which the China Daily said have been tapped in "illegal" projects.

It is impossible to even suggest what lies ahead in this ongoing dispute, however, it is clear that all the parties need to talk with each other to reach an agreement to establish who has sovereignty over the various parts of the waterway.

Such a conference will not be easy as it involves the complex issue of maritime law, national boundaries and overlapping territorial rights.

Asean should take the initiative in this matter, before matters escalate.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

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.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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