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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More