SCS - With the war-waging US, do you still trust them?

This undated photo shows the sole Chinese aircraft carrier fleet during a training in the South China Sea, Dec. 2016. VCG—VCG/Getty Images
Beijing Warns the U.S. to 'Act Cautiously' Over the South China Sea
By Ben Blanchard and David Brunnstrom / Reuters
January 25, 2017
China said on Tuesday it had “irrefutable” sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea after the White House vowed to defend “international territories” in the strategic waterway. White House spokesman Sean Spicer in his comments on Monday signaled a sharp departure from years of cautious U.S. handling of China’s assertive pursuit of territorial claims in Asia. “The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” Spicer said when asked if Trump agreed with comments by his secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson. On Jan. 11, Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea … for more, go to

SCS - With the war-waging US, do you still trust them?

The US is losing out badly to China in retaining allies and friends in Asia.

The South China Sea (SCS) disputes have long been a sore point in China’s relations with the United States, Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries.

However, Beijing has insisted that the disagreements must be resolved through negotiations with the countries directly involved, and Washington, which is not a claimant, has no role to play in the talks.

I Love Malaysia-China Silk Road asks: Why is the US such a busy body? The Asia-Pacific region has been relatively peaceful with regards to the SCS disputes.

Rightly, the Philippines and Vietnam are wary of the US’ geo-political and military interest in the SCS and region.

How do you trust a country that had been waging wars with soverign states, causing some four million deaths since the break of the Gulf Wars since 1990.

At the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in Da Nang, Vietnam, there was only lukewarm response to President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate SCS disputes.

Here are two reports posted by South China Morning Post:

"‘Better left untouched’: Philippines and Vietnam wary of Trump offer to mediate South China Sea disputes
Beijing suspects Washington could be planning to stir trouble in the contested waters, analyst says

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 November, 2017, 8:57pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 November, 2017, 9:51pm

Liu ZhenShi JiangtaoKristin HuangLaura Zhou

The maritime disputes have long been a sore point in China’s relations with the United States, Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries, with Beijing insisting the disagreements must be resolved through negotiations with the countries directly involved, and Washington, which is not a claimant, has no role to play in the talks.

Trump’s offer in Hanoi on Sunday came just hours before Xi started his second state visit in three years to the former communist ally, which has emerged in the past year as the most vocal opponent of China’s expansive claims and militarisation of artificial islands in the contested waters.

“If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know,” Trump said at a meeting in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. “I’m a very good mediator and arbitrator.”

‘I’m a very good arbitrator’: Donald Trump offers to mediate on South China Sea disputes

Like his hardline speech on Friday to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum in Da Nang, where he lashed out at China’s “territorial expansion”, Trump acknowledged again that China’s position on the South China Sea was a problem.

But his Vietnamese counterpart did not respond directly to Trump’s offer.

Instead, Quang said: “It is our policy to settle disputes in the South China Sea through peaceful negotiations” with “respect for diplomatic and legal process in accordance with international law”.

Beijing’s claim to the energy-rich South China Sea covers almost 90 per cent of the waters and overlaps those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was equally wary of confrontation, saying the dispute was “better left untouched”.

“We have to be friends. The other hotheads would like us to confront China and the rest of the world on so many issues,” Duterte said, returning home from Apec to host the Asean and East Asia summits in Manila. “The South China Sea is better left untouched, nobody can afford to go to war.”

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that while he would not speak for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Manila would continue its bilateral negotiation with Beijing.

“We thank [Trump]. It’s a very kind and generous offer because he is a good mediator. He is the master of the art of the deal,” Cayetano said. “Not one country can just give an instant reply because mediation involves all of the claimants and non-claimants.”

The South China Sea is a busy and important waterway where about 30 per cent of global maritime trade and about half of all global oil tanker shipments pass through annually.

Trump’s take on China in Vietnam was a sharp change in tone from just days earlier in Beijing where the US leader boasted of his personal bond with Xi and avoided confrontation in public on contentious issues, including the South China Sea.

Observers said that sudden shift was a reality check for US-China relations.

They said Trump’s remarks, which gave few clues as to what he planned to do next, would reinforce Beijing’s suspicion that Washington intended to meddle in South China Sea affairs and stir trouble to contain China.

Despite Beijing’s repeated protests, the Trump administration has carried out four freedom-of-navigation patrols close to Chinese-controlled islands this year, including one last month.

“China does not want the US to mediate in the South China Sea disputes because of its concerns about US meddling,” said Wu Xinbo, a US affairs specialist at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Wu said Washington had refused to heed Beijing’s concerns and cease the patrols, and Trump’s latest remarks on the maritime disputes seemed to be an attempt to stoke tensions to counter China’s expanding influence in the region.

“Vietnam has pinned its hopes on Washington to rein in China, and Trump’s latest offer shows they are colluding on the South China Sea issue,” he said.

Hanoi’s warming ties with Washington and its surging anti-China sentiment will also hamper Xi’s fence-mending visit to Vietnam.

In July, China pressured Vietnam to stop drilling for oil in a disputed area, taking relations to a low. Xi’s last visit in 2015 was overshadowed by violent anti-Beijing protests over another oil stand-off in the South China Sea the previous year.

Forget the Xi-Trump bromance, it’s time the US came clean on its vision for China and Asia

Bui Thi Thu Hien, a China expert from the Institute of Chinese Studies at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, said Vietnam, as the smaller neighbour, was concerned that China would become more assertive after Xi’s consolidation of power at the Communist Party’s national congress last month.

“With China’s rise, its competition with other major powers is inevitable, which could lead to regional instability that affects all countries,” she said.

Alexander Vuving, a China expert at the Daniel K Inouye Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu, said that despite Beijing successfully appealing to Trump’s ego and softening Trump’s rhetoric on China last week, there was little change to the fundamentals of US-China relations.

He said that although Trump and Xi appeared to have good personal ties, Beijing’s relations with Washington would be tested at the Asean and East Asia summits in the Philippines by the US leader’s embrace of a quadrilateral alliance with Japan, India and Australia.

“[The resumption of the four-way alliance] is the budding element of a new regional security architecture [targeting China],” Vuving said.

Additional reporting by Reuters and Bloomberg


Is it a pivot to Asia, a de-pivot or a re-pivot? And where does China fit in when it’s a case of America first?

11 NOV 2017

President Donald Trump shakes hands with a Chinese opera performer during his visit to the Forbidden Palace in Beijing. Photo: AP

The foreign trips of American presidents often serve as defining moments for their administrations.

And now is a particularly telling time for President Donald Trump to visit Asia-Pacific. As he tours Southeast and Northeast Asia, with stops in traditional US allies Japan, South Korea and the Philippines as well as sometime rivals China and Vietnam, it is high time for him to articulate a clear US strategy for engaging the region.

The trip, Trump’s second major foray abroad, after his visit in early summer to the Middle East and Europe, comes at a critical historic juncture. The region is grappling with a host of unsettling potential security flashpoints, ranging from North Korea’s nuclear programme to maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas. Get his strategy wrong and there is the potential for conflict in the world’s economically most dynamic – but politically, diplomatically and militarily most fragile – region.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un could be high on the agenda. Photo: Reuters

Since the end of the second world war, the US has been the pre-eminent power in the Asia-Pacific region, providing the stability needed for the economic boom of the past 70 years. All post-war US presidents have committed their country to engagement here.

While Trump has suggested North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and US economic objectives are his top priorities, he is also expected to present America’s new vision for Asia – the first time for him to articulate how the region fits in with his isolationist and economically protectionist “America First” policy.

China’s military is mighty, diplomacy is still a weak spot

The United States’ recent and high profile withdrawals from key international agreements and forums have triggered concerns over the future of US leadership of, and commitment to, the region.

It is also to be hoped that Trump will spell out his core position on Sino-US relations, an anchor of regional stability and peace. While most nations in the region actually welcome a strong and prosperous China and have long sought stable US-China relations, they also want Washington to contain what they see as excessive Chinese assertiveness under a nationalistic leadership and to challenge Beijing to become a responsible stakeholder in the community of states.

A Trump supporter. How do Asia and China fit in with Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy? Photo: AFP

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, raised US stakes in the region with his “pivot to Asia” rebalancing strategy, under which Washington was supposed to deploy up to 60 per cent of its naval assets to the region.

Questions remain over what Trump’s “America First” strategy means for Obama’s diplomatic legacy. Will it mean a “de-pivot” or even a “re-pivot” perhaps? In truth, there has been no clear sign that Trump intends to significantly deviate from Obama’s blueprint.

Opinion: Can Asia handle parallel rise of strongmen Xi and Abe?

On his last Asia trip, in 2016, Obama left a clear message that the United States was “here to stay”. Now many nations expect Trump to reassure them of America’s commitment.

As a deal maker, Trump needs to let both his partners and rivals aware of what he intends to do next after pulling the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with 11 other Pacific nations and the Paris Climate Accord.

An F/A-18 Super Hornet lands on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters

How to manage the rivalry between the fast rising China and a US-led regional alliance to avoid miscalculations, misunderstandings and misperceptions is key to maintaining stability and peace, given the many aircraft carriers, warships and fighter jets from both sides that now patrol the East and South China Seas.

While Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have built a personal rapport bordering on “bromance”, they are faced with having to maintain cooperation between not only the world’s two largest economies, but its two greatest political adversaries – the leading free democracy and the last major communist-ruled nation. They have their task cut out. ■

Cary Huang, a senior writer with the South China Morning Post, has been a China affairs columnist since the 1990s"

China begins new work on disputed South China Sea island
HONG KONG (Reuters) - China has started fresh construction work in the disputed South China Sea, new satellite images show, a sign that Beijing is continuing to strengthen its military reach across the vital trade waterway. Regional military attaches and experts believe the work shows China’s determination to build up its network of reefs and islets, even if it is seeking to avoid a fresh confrontation with the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. An image of North Island in the Paracels group taken on March 6 shows recent work including land clearing and possible preparation for a harbor to support what experts believe may be eventual military installations. Initial work was damaged in a typhoon last year … for mor, go to