Troubled Asean

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


IN THE last few days, the president of the most powerful nation of the globe, the United States (US), was in East Asia, hobnobbing with political and military leaders in the area.

Even the cognoscenti among us could not easily be made to believe that US President Barack Obama came to this part of the globe purely for friendly and social reasons.

Meaning that, he merely wants to renew friendships or gain new ones in Southeast Asia.

Initial news of the US president’s visit to Asia, particularly the Philippines, took up the significant issue of China’s aggressive incursion into some areas that a number of countries in the region have also shown strategic economic and political interest in.

These areas reportedly have deposits of precious mineral resources such as crude oil, thus China’s interest in them.

Obama, in his first encounter with Filipino leaders, did not openly declare security support to the Philippines. But he asserted that a ten-year agreement with the Philippines that was signed the other day, giving the US military “greater access to
Philippine bases will help promote regional security, improved armed forces training and shorten response times to humanitarian crises, including natural disasters.”

The agreement-signing was the “climax of the four-nation US presidential tour in Asia” that lasted about a week. Called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), the pact gives “American forces temporary access to selected military camps and allow (US forces) to preposition fighter jets and ships.”

This is seen as an effort by Washington to counter Chinese aggression in the region.

In a sense, the strategy is a way of covering up the true objective of the US.

On the other hand, acting as one of the global leaders, and coming also from one of the world’s powerful nations, if not the most powerful, Obama asserted the other day that US allies do not aim to “contain China.”

Rather, their goal is “to make sure that international rules and norms are respected in resolving territorial disputes.” Obama expressed this benign view during the joint press conference he had with President Benigno C. Aquino III.

It should be noted that, in recent months, China, while showing and expressing friendship, has been aggressively asserting its claim to areas in the South China Sea.

There has been an earlier rule that areas within 200 miles from the shores of another country should be considered as part of the nearest nation. But an area within this zone has been coveted by China, so that the Philippines has resorted to renaming it as West Philippine Sea.

We are obviously a minuscule power compared with China, which insists on calling the area as South China Sea. But we insist, albeit in a cowering voice, that it is the West Philippine Sea. And so enters the United States as our traditional ally. Its entry is timely, and is most mutually welcomed, too.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 01, 2014.

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