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UPDATED: July 13, 2014 NO. 21 MAY 22, 2014
The U.S. Shadow
South China Sea disputes are in danger of escalating as some Southeast Asian countries exploit perceived U.S. backing
By Yu Lintao

With regards to the latest moves by Manila, the GMA News, a major commercial television and radio network in the Philippines, said Obama's visit was an indication that they have acquired the United States' protection.

Since Obama left the Philippines, Manila has taken a series of provocative actions in the South China Sea. On May 3, the Philippine air force airdropped supplies to marines stationed on its old transport ship illegally stationed on China's Ren'ai Reef. The next day, the "shoulder-to-shoulder" drill was held at the maritime and land areas near the South China Sea. On May 6, after the Philippine police detained the Chinese fishing boat, former Philippine senator Ramos Shahani openly trumpeted the idea of allowing the United States to set up military bases on the Ren'ai Reef and Huangyan Island. Almost at the same time, a senior military officer of the Philippines unexpectedly posed a "defense plan concerning the South China Sea" through the Kyodo News Agency of Japan, advocating more actions to arm the islands and reefs in the disputed waters.

Wang said the series of moves by the Philippines were carefully planned. "As the U.S.-Philippine joint drill goes on, Manila's provocation of Beijing is meant to test whether Washington's commitments are merely empty talk," he said.

Wang also mentioned that current social and economic problems within the Philippines have led politicians to shift public attention to the tussle with China over the maritime disputes.

Diplomatic disarray

China's Xinhua News Agency reported that from May 3 to 7, about 36 Viet Nam vessels, including warships, intruded into waters near a Chinese oil rig in waters off the Xisha Islands to harass the drilling operation and ram Chinese boats.

The reports said Vietnamese frogmen were found just five meters away from Chinese ships in an act of intimidation, in addition to illegal placement of numerous broken fishing nets and other large obstacles in the waters that endanger passing ships and vessels. The Chinese ships eventually fought back with water cannons.

As the tension built, the United States ignored the harassment by the Vietnamese and instead accused China of "provocation."

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that China's deployment of an oil rig in the South China Sea was "provocative." John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State on May 12 also described China's self-defense maneuvers as "aggressive."

In response to the U.S. officials' remarks, Beijing urged Washington to reflect on its stance on the South China Sea.

"There is indeed a country taking provocative actions in the South China Sea, but this country is not China," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing on May 13. "The recent series of irresponsible and factually incorrect comments from the United States have encouraged certain countries' dangerous and provocative behavior."

"We expect the United States to reflect on its acts. If it indeed expects the Pacific Ocean to be pacific, it should consider what role it can play in maintaining regional peace and stability," Hua added.

Observers claimed that the intervention of outside parties have further complicated the security situation of the South China Sea and even the whole Asia-Pacific. It is neither helpful for the settlement of the disputes nor conducive to the lasting peace and stability of the region.

If the United States continues to incite the governments of some regional countries, peace can hardly be achieved in the South China Sea, Wang with the CASS said.

Email us at: yulintao@bjreview.com

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