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Obama’s reinforcement of Asian ties sends strong message to China

Publication Date : 01-05-2014

 

As US President Barack Obama—known for his “Asia pivot” policy—reconfirms his nation’s unity with its Asian allies, the significance of his moves should not be underestimated.

Obama recently finished his Asian tour, leaving his footprints in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The US president has made his country’s presence felt in the Asia-Pacific region during the trip, stressing his unyielding stance against China’s expansion into Asia-Pacific waters where Beijing is unilaterally attempting to change the status quo, as well as his stand against North Korea’s nuclear development program. We welcome these moves.

One of the highlights of Obama’s Asian trip was the signing of a military pact between the United States and the Philippines, which paves the way for the re-stationing of US troops in the Southeast Asian nation. Manila is currently engaged in territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will give US forces access to Philippine military bases. The pact will also enable the temporary rotation of US troops through the country, and the deployment of fighter jets and warships.

The Philippines was once a strategic foothold of the United States. However, the island country refused to extend the stationing of the US forces after the end of the Cold War, and US troops withdrew from the country by the end of 1992.

After the US withdrawal, China began reinforcing its influence in the South China Sea as if the country were aiming to fill the power vacuum. For example, Beijing has extended its control of a shoal over which the Philippines claims sovereignty. More recently, China has obliged fishing boats operating in the South China sea to obtain a license from the Chinese government, further raising tensions in the area.

US as stabiliser

The US-Philippine pact will serve as a great opportunity to restore the influence of US forces in the South China Sea. If US forces enhance their cooperation with the forces of Asian allies, through efforts such as joint military exercises, this can be expected to work as a deterrent to China’s activities in the area. It is understandable that Obama said the purpose of the pact is “to promote regional stability such as in the South China Sea.”

In the Japan-US joint statement issued during Obama’s trip to Japan, Obama reaffirmed that the Senkaku Islands, which are located in the East China Sea, are within the scope of the Japan-US Security Treaty. It is very meaningful that Obama expressed his intention not to condone China’s moves to seek hegemony also in the South China Sea through the US-Philippines pact.

Meanwhile, in South Korea, Obama agreed with South Korean President Park Geun-hye to reinforce the two countries’ cooperation to prevent further provocations by North Korea, which continues its nuclear development activities. “We will not hesitate to use our military might to defend our allies and our way of life,” Obama said during a speech at a US military base in the nation.

Specifically, Obama has stated that the United States will continue to have the right of command over US-South Korea coalition troops during contingencies for the time being. We believe it was appropriate for the United States to show that it will maintain responsibility in deterring North Korea’s movements.

Park has recently been increasing her inclination toward China. However, in a written reply to questions from a South Korean newspaper, Obama said that Seoul’s alliance with the United States serves as the foundation of South Korea’s security and prosperity, an apparent message urging to the nation to shift its focus onto cooperation with the United States and Japan.

It is unlikely that the tensions in the Asia-Pacific region will end anytime soon. It will be essential for the United States and its allies to join hands and accumulate specific actions one by one.

 

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