News / Asia

South China Sea Tensions Overshadow New US Military Engagement

Aerial view of Pagasa Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines (file photo)
Aerial view of Pagasa Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines (file photo)
Brian Padden

U.S. plans to send additional military personnel to Australia in the coming years have drawn mixed responses among Southeast Asian leaders who are wary of increasing the possibility of military confrontation.

But analysts say ongoing territorial disputes about the South China Sea are an even greater worry.

During a news conference following the East Asia Summit, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did not say whether he supported or opposed the agreement between Australia and the United States to station up to 2,500 American forces in Australia in the next few years. He only said he was reassured that the U.S. is committed to maintaining peace in the region.

Yudhoyono said he met with President Obama to officially hear that the U.S. has no intention of disturbing any of Australia's neighboring countries.


Despite the public ambivalence of some leaders, Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia analyst with the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy, said privately, most regional leaders welcomed the news.

Thayer said the United States is especially appreciated when it comes to dealing with China about territorial disputes in the South China Sea. He said ASEAN countries need the involvement of the U.S. military.

“They are slowly improving their capability but they need the majors powers to balance eachother out," Thayer said. "And so the U.S. presence, as I say, provides the oxygen, allows them to breath, have a central role, knowing that China has to take into account the fact that the U.S. is engaged in the region.”

The South China Sea is of tremendous strategic importance to world shipping and is believed to hold huge oil and gas reserves. China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia all hold competing claims to parts of the sea.

China claims the entire South China Sea and says any dispute should be handled on a bilateral basis only. The United States takes no position on individual claims, but supports a multilateral approach to settle disputes based on international maritime law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.

Thayer said of the 18 countries attending the summit, only Burma and Cambodia did not raise concerns about territorial disputes in the South China Sea and nearly all the Southeast Asian leaders supported President Obama's position.

“The White House take-out on this [is] you basically had most countries reaffirming the core features of Obama, the international law, the non-use of force, U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea, freedom and safety of navigation," he said.

Thayer sees a connection between the increased U.S. military engagement and ASEAN's growing unity on how to resolve territorial disputes in the region.

David Carden , U.S. Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, denied that the United States is trying assert a show of strength to influence ASEAN.

“I do not believe there is any reason to combine those issues - however tempting it might be for others who feel the United States is putting its' position forward. I don't think that is the case at all,” the ambassador said.

Carden said Washington is only playing a supportive role to ASEAN's longstanding leadership in negotiating a code of conduct with China.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.

All About America

AppleAndroid