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Asean Affairs   6 July  2011

Aquino goes ahead with personal diplomacy

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     6 July 2011

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There recently have been increased tensions and confrontations between Philippines and China over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

President Benigno Aquino said on Tuesday he would go ahead with a trip to China this year and during his visit he would focus on trying to resolve disputes over the strategic waters.

"It will happen this year, barring any unforeseen circumstances," he told reporters.

"For me, it is important to talk to everyone, especially the other side. Maybe we can reach an agreement. After all, we cannot just ignore this matter when people's lives may be at stake," Aquino said.

The Philippine foreign minister said last week he would travel to China to help prepare for the president's visit, for which a date has not yet been set.

The Philippines and China, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, all claim all or part of the South China Sea, particularly the Spratlys, a chain of islets in the area that are believed to sit on vast mineral resources.

Tensions have escalated in recent weeks, with the Philippines and Vietnam voicing alarm at what they say are increasingly forceful Chinese actions there.

In the latest incident, an unidentified foreign plane harassed a group of Philippine fishermen in the South China Sea last month, the Philippine navy said Monday, adding that they believed the flyover to be a warning.

Asked about the plane, Aquino said he had yet to receive a report on the incident.

The Philippines president needs to be encouraged and supported as he goes straight into the “dragon’s den” to attempt to resolve the issues that are continuing to produce a series of small-scale confrontations that could easily escalate into something worse.

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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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