US, China may be on col­li­sion course in S. China Sea: of­fi­cials

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Front Page -

AS China moves to com­plete the cre­ation of mil­i­tary out­posts in the South China Sea, Beijing’s ne­go­ti­a­tion with South­east Asian na­tions over a bind­ing code of con­duct is gain­ing mo­men­tum.

But US of­fi­cials and ex­perts warn that China’s in­ser­tions in the draft South China Sea code of con­duct may put Wash­ing­ton and Beijing on a col­li­sion course. The text of the draft also shows that deep di­vi­sions re­main among claimants.

One of the Chi­nese pro­vi­sions in the text states, “The Par­ties shall not hold joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with coun­tries from out­side the re­gion, unless the par­ties con­cerned are no­ti­fied be­fore­hand and ex­press no ob­jec­tion.”

China also pro­posed co­op­er­a­tion on the marine econ­omy “shall not be con­ducted in co­op­er­a­tion with com­pa­nies from coun­tries out­side the re­gion.”

A State Depart­ment spokesper­son told VOA the United States is con­cerned by re­ports China has been press­ing mem­bers of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions “in the closed-door talks, to ac­cept re­stric­tions on their abil­ity to con­duct ex­er­cises with se­cu­rity part­ners, and to agree not to con­duct oil and gas ex­plo­ration in their claimed wa­ters with en­ergy firms based in coun­tries which are not part of the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

“These pro­pos­als, if ac­cepted, would limit the abil­ity of ASEAN na­tions to con­duct sov­er­eign, in­de­pen­dent for­eign and eco­nomic poli­cies and would di­rectly harm the in­ter­ests of the broader in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” added the State Depart­ment spokesper­son.

For China, the ben­e­fits are ap­par­ent. The United States and China are com­pet­ing for in­flu­ence in the Indo-pa­cific re­gion.

China and South­east Asian navies are hold­ing their first joint ex­er­cises through Oc­to­ber 28. An in­au­gu­ral ASEAN-US mar­itime ex­er­cise will be held next year.

“In other words, China would like a veto over all the mil­i­tary ex­er­cises held by ASEAN coun­tries with other na­tions. I think this re­ally pro­vides some ev­i­dence that China in­deed is try­ing to limit Amer­i­can in­flu­ence in the re­gion, one might go so far as to say to push Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence out of the re­gion even­tu­ally, but cer­tainly in the area of the South China Sea,” said Bon­nie Glaser, direc­tor of the China Power Project at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (CSIS) in Wash­ing­ton.

While the United States is not a claimant to the sovereignty of dis­puted is­lands in the South China Sea, Wash­ing­ton has said China’s ef­forts to mil­i­tarise out­posts in the con­tested wa­ters en­dan­ger the free flow of trade and un­der­mine re­gional sta­bil­ity, a claim Beijing re­buts.

The US is also call­ing for on­go­ing dis­cus­sions on the South China Sea code of con­duct to be trans­par­ent and con­sul­ta­tive with the rest of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. US of­fi­cials said the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has a di­rect stake in the out­come.

In Au­gust, Singapore’s For­eign Min­is­ter Vi­vian Balakr­ish­nan an­nounced China and ASEAN’S 10 mem­bers had reached a draft agree­ment. ASEAN lead­ers are to meet next month in Singapore.

High­light­ing the im­por­tance of such a draft, a CSIS re­port said for the first time in many years, an ef­fec­tive diplo­matic process to man­age South China Sea dis­putes seems pos­si­ble.

ASEAN and China have been dis­cussing a po­ten­tial code of con­duct to man­age South China Sea mar­itime and ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes for more than two decades. – Voice of Amer­ica

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