There have been some new developments regarding the ongoing dispute in the Asia Pacific.
A US aircraft carrier strike group was reported patrolling the South China Sea last week. Days after, Beijing told Washington not to challenge its sovereignty in the waterway.
China asserts ownership of almost all the resource-rich waters despite rival claims from several Southeast Asian countries. It has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.
In line with this, the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group engaged in routine operations in the South China Sea; ships and aircraft were recently involved in exercises off Hawaii and Guam.
We can see here that the defence posturing of the United States is trying to challenge China’s muscle flexing in the Asia-Pacific region. America is trying to use pseudo-hard politics here. Hard on frontal posture, yet soft on its remarks (the US used to
say Asia-Pacific states need to “maintain and improve their readiness and develop cohesion
as a strike group”).
If the US is seeking to unify
the region, then we look
forward to its demonstrating its capabilities while building on existing, strong relations with allies, partners and friends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Thus, there is a great necessity to revisit, create, complete, and institutionalise the Code of Conduct on the South China
Sea (COC) this year, if not
next year. The target date for
completion of the COC framework is 2017.
The Philippines, being this year’s Asean host, should prefer not to escalate tension because while the Chinese are talking to Asean for a possible COC, they are actually doing something else on the ground, escalating confrontational rhetoric with the US, and this has fanned tensions among members of Asean. The challenge is always in Asean’s hands and our beloved Philippines.