Monday, July 26, 2010

[US Returns to Asia] Now, the Spratly Islands...

I have often said that the "Obama Doctrine" has finally brought the United States to a more, normal, say rational foreign policy. The previous administration was so preoccupied with Iraq that the country ignored some of the more pressing issues going on in the rest of the world and in particular to East Asia and China. However, the more I see of what the current administration is doing in East Asia, I am

In a New York Times article, "Offering to Aid Talks, U.S. Challenges China on Disputed Islands,Mark Landler writes:
Opening a new source of potential friction with China, the Obama administration said Friday that it would step into a tangled dispute between China and its smaller Asian neighbors over a string of strategically significant islands in the South China Sea.
The United States is again internationalizing an issue that is causing China discomfort. While China, as the article goes on to say, regards the South China Sea to be a "core interest" of sovereignty, so does the United States for a number of reasons. First, as a giant continental island nation, the United States also has a "core interest." The article continues:
“The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” Mrs. Clinton said. 
Of course, at the same time, the United States provides protection to China's "[much, much] smaller Asian neighbors, it's another pressure point on China. And, while the article does not say this, it completes the encirclement of China's east coast from Okinawa down to Taiwan and, of course, through the South China Sea. I think for far too long China has given China a free pass even as the United States has shown good faith to China by wholeheartedly accepting Communist China into the international community, such as the WTO. It seems the administration's strategy is to support the position of China's smaller neighbors and internationalize the issue where ever and whenever possible. 
The announcement was a significant victory for the Vietnamese, who have had deadly clashes in past decades with China over some of the islands. Vietnam’s strategy has been to try to “internationalize” the disputes by bringing in other players for multilateral negotiations. 
Of course, there is no player other than the United States in East Asia that would be willing to take on China . (This does, however, need to be put in context of the US-China relationship now being about more than a single or a couple or even three issues.) Imagine if the U.S. wasn't around in East Asia. All of Asia would be swallowed whole by Chinese interests.

And, it seems that military exercises in Northeast Asia have also begun (more on this shortly).

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