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FACTDROP: Barack Obama may not like it, but its all about China at ASEAN


Barack Obama may not like it, but its all about China at ASEAN

Πηγή: newKerala
Nov 19 2011

Bali (Indonesia), Nov.19 : "Outside forces" had no excuse to get involved in a complex dispute over the South China Sea, said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, throwing the gauntlet at the U.S.

An unofficial grouping of South East Asian nations is being egged on by the United States to edge out Chinese dominance in the shipping lanes of the South China Sea.

Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei are pressurizing China to be more accomodative and discuss the issue openly so as to come to some solution.

The Philippines has called on the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to facilitate talks with China over disputed areas of the sea that contain oil and gas resources.

President Obama, who is attending the East Asia Summit for the first time, said the ASEAN meet “can be the premier area for us to be able to work together on a wide range of issues: maritime security or nonproliferation.”

He said this at the beginning of a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.

Meanwhile, China is not at all keen to discuss the South China Sea at either the ASEAN meet or at the East Asia Summit, both of which are to be held here in Bali.
ASEAN is not an appropriate forum to discuss the South China Sea dispute, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said yesterday in Beijing.

China has the most extensive historic sovereignty claims in the potentially oil and gas rich South China Sea, including uninhabited atolls near the equatorial northern coast of Borneo.

Claimants to the sea have been trying to cool tension after a series of disputes this year, including when Chinese patrol boats threatened to ram a Philippine-contracted survey ship in the Reed Bank in March.

China and Vietnam last month signed an agreement seeking to contain the dispute, but the wording was vague and contained little new that the two sides had not agreed on previously.

"It''s really only a question of time before we see another incident of the kind we saw earlier this year," said Ian Storey, a fellow at Singapore''s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

"China opposes any discussion of the issue at these kinds of forums," he added. "It opposes the ''internationalisation'' of the problem. That''s a limiting factor because China is obviously the key player in all of this and if it doesn''t want to talk you''re not going to make much headway."

China insists the dispute can only be resolved by bilateral talks between the parties directly concerned and has reacted angrily to attempts by the United States or old enemy Japan to get involved. India too has entered the frame via an oil exploration agreement with Vietnam.

With U.S. bases near Japan and South Korea, China fears it could be threatened if the United States stepped up its naval presence in the South China Sea. However, expecting ASEAN to play a role, could also be wishful thinking.

"ASEAN does not even have a common stand on the South China Sea dispute and has a poor track record in settling issues like this," said Rommel Banlaoi, Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Premier Wen Jiabao assured the Southeast Asian nations that Beijing has no aggressive intentions in the South China Sea.

"China will never seek hegemony and we are against any hegemonic behavior," Wen said when addressing the ASEAN Summit meet here in Bali.

"China will forever be a good neighbor, good friend and good partner of ASEAN," Wen added.

He also announced that Beijing will establish a China-ASEAN maritime cooperation fund of 473 million dollars. China will offer ASEAN another 10 billion dollars in loans, on top of a pledge of 15 billion dollars of loans made two years ago.

Trade volume between China and ASEAN is likely to exceed 350 billion dollars this year, Wen said.

China has become ASEAN''s top trading partner, while ASEAN ranked third in China''s trading list.

President Barack Obama, who is here to attend the East Asia Summit, held unscheduled talks on Saturday with China''s Premier Wen Jiabao, after a week of slanging matches between the two nations over the South China Sea issue.

Obama is keen to reassert American presence in the Asia Pacific region as a counterbalance to China''s growing might in the region.

ASEAN countries have mixed feelings about the two super powers using this region as a battleground to settle scores.

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