In a landslide victory on May 9, Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte was elected to be the next president of the Philippines. The 71-year-old Duterte – who has been called the “Donald Trump of the Philippines” for his propensity to spark controversy – pledged to reverse the current government’s foreign policy by engaging China in talks to resolve escalating maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Both China and the Philippines claim ownership over parts of the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands.
Duterte also promised to ride a jet ski to China-administrated islands and personally stake his country’s claims should negotiations fail to produce a resolution, so the world is closely watching to see how this potential flashpoint develops. In this Policy Alert, which is part of a series under the Sigur Center’s Energy and Maritime Security project, we explore the reactions of China, the Philippines, Japan, India, and Vietnam to Duterte’s electoral victory and its implications for U.S. policy toward Asia.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang hoped the new government would “meet China halfway, taking concrete measures to properly deal with [maritime] disputes so as to put the ties of the two countries back on the track of sound development.” Lu touted a historical friendship between Beijing and Manila that has been “hit by major setbacks in recent years, due to reasons known to all,” an indirect reference to U.S. support for the Philippines challenge to China’s maritime claims.
During the campaign, Duterte advocated multilateral talks with China to settle these claims. Lu said China continued to reject this approach in favor of bilateral negotiations with the relevant parties. Should those multilateral talks fail to produce an outcome within two years, Duterte promised he would consider bilateral talks directly with Beijing. He also signaled he was open to joint oil and gas exploration with China if Beijing agrees to treat the disputed waters as a “mutual corridor.”
Several commentators traced today’s strained relations between the Philippines and China to the U.S. foreign policy and the outgoing administration of President Benigno Aquino III. (more…)Continue Reading →
With South China Sea debates already on the agenda at last week’s U.S.-ASEAN summit, new satellite images showing China deployed missiles to a disputed island tested ASEAN’s ability to manage the maritime domain. A joint statement at the close of the gathering did not mention China by name, but it outlined support for “mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, equality, and political independence of all nations” as well as for “ensuring maritime security and safety, including the rights of freedom of navigation and overflight.” As host for the summit, the role of the United States in these maritime disputes was also center stage with President Barack Obama calling for “tangible steps” from all sides to resolve the region’s evolving maritime disputes “peacefully and through legal means,” including a “halt to further reclamation, new construction, and militarization of disputed areas.”
On February 17, Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense broke the news China deployed two batteries of eight advanced surface-to-air missile launchers and a radar system in recent weeks. Taiwan provided satellite images showing the HQ-9 missile systems with a range of 125 miles now located on Woody Island – called Yongxingdao by China – in the Paracel Islands chain, which has administrated by Beijing since 1974 but is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. The Pentagon confirmed the presence of the missile systems and considered the moves to be “increasing tensions in the region and are counterproductive.” Secretary of State John Kerry pledged to have a “very serious conversation” with China about U.S. concerns Beijing is militarizing the South China Sea.
This Policy Alert covers the reactions in China, India, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam to these developments and is part of our series on Energy and Maritime Security for the Rising Powers Initiative’s project exploring the linkages between energy security debates and maritime strategies in the Indo-Pacific. (more…)Continue Reading →
The launch of a UN arbitration tribunal on the China-Philippines maritime dispute has Asian powers watching closely as these debates unfold. From July 7 to 13 at The Hague, the Philippine delegation argued China violated the Philippines’s rights to exploit waters within a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as established by the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The treaty – which set rules on countries’ exercise of maritime activities – counts China, the Philippines, ASEAN countries, and many others as member-states. Sea-lanes through the South China Sea account for $5 trillion in trade every year. Therefore, the case could have a significant impact on many Asian nations, including Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam who attended the hearing as formal observers.
While Beijing refused to formally participate in the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) – the chosen UNCLOS dispute resolution mechanism – Chinese officials have taken opportunities to state their case through formal and informal channels, raising legal questions about whether China can dip its toes in the water without getting drowned by the tribunal’s verdict. Before the tribunal can begin to consider the case, the PAC will first decide if it has jurisdiction over the dispute in question before a later possible hearing to determine the legal merits of the Philippine complaint.
This Policy Alert — written by Timothy Westmyer, the program and research assistant at the Sigur Center, is part of our series on Energy and Maritime Security for the Rising Powers Initiative’s new project: The Linkages between Energy Security and Maritime Strategies in the Indo-Pacific. The research effort looks at how energy security debates shape and influence maritime strategies and vice-versa in China, India, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam and the implications of these linkages for U.S. policy toward the region. (more…)Continue Reading →
Earlier this year, the Rising Powers Initiative launched the RPI Research Database, a specialized bibliography of books and articles on targeted subjects that reflect the RPI’s ongoing research. We will periodically issue a Reading Guide that focuses on a salient research topic or current event.
Here we examine the emerging nuclear cooperation between the United States and Vietnam, following last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement.
Critics have raised concerns that Vietnam is not required to formally renounce plans to enrich or reprocess nuclear material, possibly setting a risky precedent for future U.S. nuclear deals. Advocates have pointed to Vietnam’s growing nuclear energy sector as a source of economic potential for U.S. firms and the value of influencing Vietnam’s nuclear plans. As the deal moves ahead for debate in Congress, the Reading Guide will keep you up to date.
- Hibbs, Mark. “Nuke Deal with Vietnam Good for U.S.” The Hill (May 12, 2014).
- Manyin, Mark E. “U.S.-Vietnam Relations in 2014: Current Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy.” Congressional Research Service R40208(June 24, 2014).
- McCornac, Dennis C. “Vietnam’s Foreign Policy Tightrope.” East Asia Forum (October 12, 2013).
- Nikitin, Mary Beth D., Mark Holt, and Mark E. Manyin. “U.S.-Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress.” Congressional Research Service R43433 (June 13, 2014).
- Nuclear Energy Institute. “Nuclear Energy in Vietnam.” NEI White Paper(June 2014).
- Thayer, Carlyle A. “The U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership: What’s in a Name?” Thayer Consultancy (July 26, 2013).
Negotiators from Iran and the so-called P5+1 powers – the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany – announced on November 24 that they reached a deal to address suspicions over Iran’s nuclear activities. In exchange for Iran freezing key elements of its nuclear program, the P5+1 offered $4.2 billion in foreign exchange and to ease some sanctions on Iranian energy and economic sectors for the next six months. The deal aims to be a sign of good faith between all parties as talks on a broader permanent deal continue.
This announcement sparked a dialogue within countries in Asia with their own varying levels of nuclear capacity. Since Iran’s primary foreign buyers of its oil are China, South Korea, Taiwan, India, and Japan, the agreement provides additional avenues for increased energy trade between Asia and Iran. However, the deal also opens up questions about the intersections of nuclear energy, nonproliferation policies, and regional security in Asia. In this Nuclear Debates in Asia Digest by Timothy Westmyer, research and program assistant at RPI, we explore how countries in our Nuclear Debates in Asia project – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam – reacted to the Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal and how they are addressing these pressing questions.
China, India, South Korea, and Thailand were among countries which recently received a waiver from U.S. sanctions targeting countries that import Iranian crude oil because these countries have reduced their dependence on Iranian supplies over the past several months. They will be allowed to continue to purchase Iranian oil over the next 180 days without penalties.
China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said the agreement “will help to uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation system [and] safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East.”
- -The Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang said it was a “mutually beneficial agreement which lives up to the broad expectation of the international community” and that “China will continue to play a constructive role and actively promote peace talks.” (more…)
Ongoing tensions over territorial disputes in Asia were brought to the foreground last week by several events. ASEAN foreign ministers for the first time failed to agree on a final communiqué at their annual meeting, due to divisions amongst members over how to handle disputes in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, tensions between Japan and China flared up over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. On the sidelines of the forum, South Korea, Japan, and the US met to discuss strengthening mechanisms for national security cooperation amidst stalled progress on the Korean peninsula. Our latest post highlights commentary in China, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea on these developments.
Official Chinese rhetoric at the ASEAN meeting expressed support for formulating a Code of Conduct to address disputes in the South China Sea, while commentary in the state and party-owned newspapers were less accommodating, blaming Vietnam, the Philippines, and more broadly the United States, for the region’s tensions:
- “Public opinion in China is already on the brink of boiling over,” said a Global Times editorial. “Further provocation from Vietnam and the Philippines would mean direct confrontation with China’s angry public.”
- The People’s Daily opined that “US interference in Asia-Pacific may be self defeating,” and that enabling Southeast Asian countries to “side with the US against China” will only entangle the US in South China Sea disputes.
On Sino-Japanese relations, the People’s Daily called the Japanese government’s recent proposal to purchase islands a “farce,” saying that “if it develops unchecked, it will surely result in the issue of the Diaoyu Islands spiraling out of control.”
It was widely reported in the Indian press that Vietnam’s decision to extend an oil exploration contract to an Indian company was a sign that Vietnam wants a continued Indian presence in the South China Sea. General commentary on the ASEAN meeting, however, was relatively sparse. (more…)