On 12 July 2016, an independent arbitral tribunal established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) published a clear and binding ruling on China’s claims vis-à-vis the Philippines in the South China Sea. China’s response at the time was to dismiss the ruling as ‘nothing more than a piece of waste paper’.
Interestingly, in the two years since then it has, in some small ways, complied with it. However, it is also clear that China’s behaviour in the South China Sea has not fundamentally changed. It is, in effect, using military force to try to extort concessions from its neighbours.… Seguir leyendo »
This weekend the British defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, is likely to reveal that two British naval ships have taken part in ‘freedom of navigation’ operations in the South China Sea during the past month. This will highlight a significant revival of British interest in Asian security after four years in which no Royal Navy ship visited the Asia-Pacific.
Williamson is expected to tell the international security conference in Singapore known as the ‘Shangri La Dialogue’ that HMS Albion and HMS Sutherland sailed through parts of the South China Sea to which China is attempting to restrict access. HMS Albion navigated through the Spratly Islands in early May en route from Brunei to Japan.… Seguir leyendo »
Vietnam has lost another sea battle: a $200 million oil and gas development project — known as the ‘Red Emperor’ development — off Vietnam’s southeast coast has been suspended, possibly cancelled. Hanoi’s hopes of a hydrocarbon boost to its stretched government budget have been dashed. And the culprit is Vietnam’s ‘good neighbour, good comrade and good friend’ to the north.
The project, many years in the making, was a joint venture between Repsol of Spain, Mubadala of Abu Dhabi and the state-owned energy company PetroVietnam. Commercial drilling was due to begin this April and oil and gas were expected to flow for at least 10 years.… Seguir leyendo »
The United States is sending one of its largest ships, the USS Carl Vinson, to Vietnam this week. It will be the first aircraft carrier to dock in the country since the end of the war in Vietnam, over 40 years ago.
In some respects this is a routine event: other US warships have been visiting Vietnamese ports since 2003. But it is also a symbolic moment. Previously, Vietnamese governments kept aircraft carriers at arm’s length – officials have only visited them far offshore. By welcoming the USS Carl Vinson into the harbour at Danang, the country’s third city, and the one closest to the disputed Paracel Islands, Vietnam is clearly sending out some strong messages.… Seguir leyendo »
On 10 November, Donald Trump will arrive in Danang, central Vietnam, the same city where American combat troops first landed 52 years ago. He will need to move beyond half-century-old memories to demonstrate the United States’ continuing relevance, however. Today, for the disparate regimes in Southeast Asia, the US is two things above all: a provider of diplomatic and military leverage and a market. The presence of US Pacific Command and a small army of American diplomats in the region also allow them to balance their diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington. On the economic side, the 10 members of ASEAN enjoy an annual goods-trade surplus with the US: it was $83 billion in 2016.… Seguir leyendo »
The harrowing scenes of human suffering on the Myanmar–Bangladesh border have provoked outpourings of sympathy and some firm statements by international politicians. At least half a million people have been brutally expelled from their homes and are now living in miserable conditions in muddy refugee camps and storm-drenched shanty towns. As the international community debates how to respond, it needs to take a clear-eyed view of the situation and recognise a brutal truth: the refugees are almost certainly not going home.
Consequently, policymakers must not hide behind the fiction that Bangladesh is only temporarily hosting the refugees in preparation for their rapid return home.… Seguir leyendo »
The ruling by an arbitral tribunal of five members based in The Hague was simple and devastating. It declares that ‘China’s claims to historic rights… with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the “nine-dash line” are contrary to the [The UN] Convention [on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS]’. This is a result that Southeast Asia’s maritime countries have long sought. The way is now clear to resolve all the disputes in the region, if the participants choose to do so.
For decades, countries around the South China Sea lived under the shadow of a quasi-territorial claim that no one really understood.… Seguir leyendo »
The victory of political outsider Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 Philippines’ elections is proof that a significant minority of the country’s population feels left behind by its recent economic success and estranged from its political elite. However the results of the elections as a whole suggest that most voters opted for a continuation of the current government’s policies.
Duterte looks almost certain to be inaugurated as the next president of the Philippines on 30 June. The country’s presidential voting system – a single round, first-past-the-post election – delivered victory to a populist outsider with 39 per cent support. Two candidates advocating a continuation of the current government’s policies − the Liberal Party’s Mar Roxas and independent Grace Poe − polled a combined 45 per cent.… Seguir leyendo »
Every five years, the Communist Party of Vietnam holds a Congress to set the country’s agenda for the next five years, and choose a new leadership. The most powerful figure in the country is not the prime minister or president, but the general secretary of the Party. In the months leading up to the most recent Congress, held this week, the country’s prime minister for the past 10 years, Nguyen Tan Dung, had made it clear that he wanted the top job. As one of the key architects of Vietnam’s recently impressive economic growth and with a reputation as a shrewd political operator, most outside observers assumed that he would get his way.… Seguir leyendo »