China gives cool response to US military activity in Australia
Chinese officials have reacted cooly to President Obama’s announcement Wednesday that US Marines will be based in northern Australia, closer to the disputed South China Sea than any other US land forces.
(Page 2 of 3)
In Manila on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took up the cudgels on behalf of the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China. She pledged to help strengthen the Philippines Navy, whose vessels have recently clashed with Chinese boats; she warned China not to intimidate its smaller neighbors; and she called the South China Sea “the West Philippines Sea” in an open espousal of Manila’s position on sovereignty.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Chinese fears that Washington is seeking to contain China, and drive a wedge between Beijing and neighboring states “are not new,” says Bonnie Glaser, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “But the US has given China lots of reasons to think it’s a real strategy.”
China has laid sovereignty claims to almost all of the South China Sea, believed to be rich not only in fisheries but in oil and other mineral resources. Those claims conflict with claims to specific islands and atolls by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei – which have periodically flared up into maritime stand-offs.
Washington says it is neutral in the territorial disputes, and that its interest in the area lies in the security of the shipping lanes that carry $5.3 trillion of world trade each year.
In fact, the US has consistently supported China’s neighbors’ demand that China resolve the disputes in a multilateral forum such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), against Beijing’s insistence on bilateral negotiations.
The issue will come up again at the East Asian Summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Friday. Obama will be the first US president to attend such a meeting, at the end of a nine day Asia-Pacific visit that has underlined, as he said to the Australian parliament Thursday, that “after a decade in which we fought two wars that cost us dearly, in blood and treasure, the United States is turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region.”
Beijing is clearly unhappy with Washington’s involvement in South China Sea spats. “Having forces from outside become involved would not help solve the issue and would make it more complicated,” warned Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhemin this week.