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Weekly NewsLetter
6  June  2011
    Vol.1 No.17

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The Editor's Corner


South China Sea dispute begins to boil
          The ongoing dispute over territorial rights in the South China Sea and the oil wealth that lies beneath the waves is getting hotter by the day.

The dispute involves China and Asean member states, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam, plus Taiwan.

The South China Sea is one of the world’s most heavily traveled maritime commercial routes.

The Spratly islands consist of more than 750 islands, islets, atolls and cays and claimed by China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. While there are no native islanders, about 45 islands of the archipelago are now occupied by Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Malaysian and Filipino forces, all determined to assert their nations’ claims of sovereignty. Given the potential resources, the possibility of confrontation is significant and is already occurring.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino 3rd said that Manila had documented up to seven incidents involving the two sides in less than four months, including one in which a Chinese vessel allegedly opened fire on Filipino fishermen.

He said that details would be presented to China and the United Nations (UN).

Manila said that the incidents happened in an area of the South China Sea just outside the Spratlys, a reputedly oil-rich island chain claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Vietnam has demanded that China immediately cease actions violating Vietnamese sovereignty and hindering Vietnamese fishing boats operating in the waters of the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago.

The statement was made in a diplomatic note sent to the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi by a Vietnamese Foreign Ministry representative on June 2 in protest against Chinese marine forces using weapons to threaten Vietnamese fishermen conducting normal, legal activities.

Speaking in Singapore on Saturday, outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates vowed the US military would maintain a "robust" presence across Asia backed up with new high-tech weaponry to protect allies and safeguard shipping lanes.

The US military will expand its presence in Southeast Asia, sharing facilities with Australia in the Indian Ocean and deploying new littoral combat ships (LCS) to Singapore, where it has access to naval facilities, he said.

Without naming China, Gates said the new hardware was a response to "the prospect that new and disruptive technologies and weapons could be employed to deny US forces access to key sea routes and lines of communications."

Gates held talks with his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie on Friday, said efforts to promote a security dialogue with China had borne fruit and that military relations had "steadily improved in recent months."

China and the other countries need to work this dispute out around a table. However, the Asean countries have proposed multilateral talks while China wants to engage each country one on one. This is the key point that must be overcome for steps to be taken to resolve the dispute.


Top News from Southeast Asia

June 5 , 2011


These were the most significant news stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of May 28-June 3.

US to continue Myanmar sanctions
US lawmakers this week proposed to extend sanctions on Myanmar, saying that the regime has not made true efforts to improve treatment of its people despite a political transition.

Thai exports rise 
Thailand’ export index in April rose 25 percent year on year but the export value of some goods dropped, according to the Thai National Shippers' Council (TNSC).

Laos fears growing Chinese presence 
At casinos in the Laos town of Boten, guests are greeted with a deferential "ni hao", "hello" in Mandarin Chinese.

Indonesia needs to reduce red tape 
Bureaucracy is the main obstacle standing between the government and its target of becoming one of the world’s 12 largest economies by 2025, economists say.

Asean governments need to forego fuel subsidies 
Asean governments have a narrow window of opportunity to pare back politically popular fuel subsidies on their own schedule before budgets or bond holders force their hands.

Philippines growth slows 
Economists say the Philippines’ slowdown in the first quarter forecasts weaker growth for the rest of the year.

BMW expands Malaysia production  
BMW Group Malaysia will be ramping up production at its local assembly facilities in Kulim, Kedah, by 50 percent for 2011, in line with its increased investment and the creation of more skilled jobs within the Malaysian automotive industry.

Indonesia leads coal exports through 2020  
Indonesia will lead global growth in thermal coal exports in the next decade with producers Bumi Resources and Adaro Energy becoming two of the top three coal exporting companies worldwide by 2015, an energy consultancy firm said on Tuesday.

Thailand tells court to drop case 
The International Court of Justice should drop Cambodia's petition on Preah Vihear temple, Thailand says.

Vietnamese state firms told to sell dollars 
State-owned groups, corporations and enterprises that are over 50 percent State-owned will have to sell foreign reserves (US dollars) to commercial banks from next month, pursuant to a circular released yesterday by the State Bank of Viet Nam, in a move seen by many as controversial.

Thai political parties pitch stronger markets  
Thai political parties are promising to push forward with developing the competitiveness of the Thai capital market, linking regional markets and improving people's financial literacy to create a strong investment culture.

Vietnam asks China to stop harassment  
Vietnam has demanded that China immediately cease actions violating Vietnamese sovereignty and hindering Vietnamese fishing boats operating in the waters of the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago.

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