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Monday, June 6, 2022

United States extends support to Philippines in criticising China's fishing ban in South China Sea

United States extends support to Philippines in criticising China's fishing ban in South China Sea

 


The US backed the Philippines in opposing China's unilateral seasonal ban on fishing in the disputed South China Sea. The US also asked China to abide by its obligations under international law.

The United States on Thursday extended support to the Philippines in opposing China's unilateral seasonal ban on fishing in the disputed South China Sea, reported AFP. The US State Department cited a 2016 ruling by a court in The Hague to criticise China's move.
Notably, the court had rejected Beijing's claims as well as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified by China. "The PRC's unilateral fishing moratorium in the South China Sea is inconsistent with the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling and international law," State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote on Twitter.
The US also asked China to abide by its obligations under international law. Earlier this week, the Philippines had also filed a diplomatic protest with China over the unilateral ban. Manila also complained of harassment by China's coast guard.
The Philippines foreign ministry accused China of disrupting a joint marine scientific research mission and energy exploration activities in the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). On Thursday, Beijing rejected Manila's protest, reported the Philippines' digital portal, Philstar.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian defended the ban. He said that the ban is a standard measure to safeguard Beijing's resources. China's ban on fishing in the South China sea is in effect from May 1 to Aug. 16.
Last week, President-elect Ferdinand Marcos vowed to defend the sovereignty of his country and to stand up against China's encroachment policy, reported Reuters. The Philippines and China shared bitter relations in the past due to territorial disputes in the South China sea.
Richard Marles reveals what happened when Chinese J-16 jet intercepted RAAF P-8 maritime aircraft over South China Sea

Richard Marles reveals what happened when Chinese J-16 jet intercepted RAAF P-8 maritime aircraft over South China Sea



 The Defence Minister has revealed further details about what happened when a Chinese military jet intercepted an Australian aircraft last month in what has been described by Defence officials as a "dangerous manoeuvre".

Defence Minister Richard Marles has revealed details into the incident between a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft and a Chinese military jet in the South China Sea.
The Defence Department released a statement on Sunday to announce a P-8 plane was intercepted by a jet during "routine maritime surveillance" in international airspace.
A "dangerous manoeuvre" by the Chinese aircraft left the Australian crew on the P-8 maritime plane fearing for their safety.
"Defence has for decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace," it said in a statement.
Mr Marles was briefed on the "very dangerous" incident and detailed what occurred last month on May 26 over the highly disputed body of water.
"What occurred was that the J-16 (Chinese) aircraft flew very close to the side of the P-8 (Australian) maritime surveillance aircraft," he said.
"In flying close to the side, it released flares.
"The J-16 then accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the P-8 at very close distance.
"At that moment, it then released a bundle of chaff, which contains small pieces of aluminium, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft.
"Quite obviously, this is very dangerous."
He said the crew, who were uninjured, responded "professionally and in a manner which would make us all proud" by returning the plane to its base.
The Australian Government have expressed their concerns and flagged the issue with Beijing.
Mr Marles said China have responded but he would not reveal what Chinese officials have said, adding it was a "matter for them" to address.
He defended the actions of the Australian crew who were in the region for surveillance activity which it has regularly undertaken in the South China Sea "for decades".
"Other countries do the same," the Deputy Prime Minister said.
"We are operating completely within our rights in international law because the South China Sea matters to Australia because most of our trade traverses the South China Sea.
"We are deeply invested in the rights of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
"And so, to that end, I want to make it very clear this incident will not deter Australia to engage in these activities which are within our rights at international law to assure there is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea that is fundamentally in our nation’s interests."
He was then quizzed whether tensions could further escalate between Beijing and Canberra after the latest incident between their aircrafts.
Mr Marles stressed he did not want to see an increase in militarisation in the South China Sea.
"This is a body of water that is deeply connected to Australia because of our trade which goes through there," the Defence Minister said.
"What’s important is to let the Australian public know what has occurred and the representations we have made to China."
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese repeated the remarks from Defence during a press conference in Western Australia prior to Mr Marles revealing the details.
"I won't be making further comment on it, other than to say that in the Australian Government's view, in the Defence Department's view, this was not safe, what occurred, and we've made appropriate representations to the Chinese government expressing our concern at this," he said.
The 59-year-old was questioned if he was sending "mixed signals" as the statement could insist Australia viewed China as a rival instead of a partner.
"We have strategic competition in the region," Mr Albanese said in response before he jets off to Jakarta to meet dignitaries alongside Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
"What we need to do is to make sure that we have competition, recognise that it's there without catastrophe. And I certainly seek peaceful relations with all of our neighbours, recognising the challenges, though, which are there."
He is expected to speak to Indonesia Prime Minister Joko Widodo in a bilateral leaders' meeting about China's growing influence in the Pacific region and discussions about his pledge of further aid and a special envoy for the region.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Philippines complains of Chinese fishing ban and 'harassment' at sea

Philippines complains of Chinese fishing ban and 'harassment' at sea

 


The Philippines on Tuesday said it had filed a diplomatic protest with China for unilaterally declaring a South China Sea fishing ban, and complained also of harassment and violations of its jurisdiction by Beijing's coast guard.

The foreign ministry in a statement accused the Chinese vessels of disrupting a joint marine scientific research mission as well as energy exploration activities at two sites in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In another statement, it denounced China's imposition of a fishing moratorium aimed at regenerating fish stocks, an annual ban that includes waters inside the EEZs of Vietnam and the Philippines.
China's embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Philippine statements, which referred to developments in March and April.
The foreign ministry said the coast guard's actions were "not consistent with innocent passage and are clear violations of the Philippine maritime jurisdiction."
It did not say why it waited more than a month to comment on the incidents.
The protest demonstrates the challenges ahead for President-elect Ferdinand Marcos, who will have a delicate balancing act in pursuing stronger economic ties with China while not appearing to capitulate over what the military sees as Beijing's unlawful provocations at sea.
Marcos, whose May 9 election win analysts see as more favourable to Beijing than Washington, last week said he would defend sovereign territory and stand up to Chinese encroachment, in his strongest comments yet on foreign policy.
That followed a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping during which he said he would elevate bilateral ties to a new level.
The Philippines and China have historically had a rocky relationship over Beijing's vast territorial claims and conduct of its coast guard and fishing fleet in the South China Sea, through which at least $2.4 million of sea-borne trade passes each year.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Blinken lays out US strategy to counter China as rivalry grows

Blinken lays out US strategy to counter China as rivalry grows

 

US secretary of state outlines a strategy to counter Beijing, but says Washington is seeking to avoid a cold war or conflict.

Washington, DC – Despite the current focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China poses the “most serious long-term challenge to the international order”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.
In a major speech delivered at George Washington University in Washington, DC on Thursday, Blinken unveiled the United States’ multipronged strategy amid intensifying competition with China.
“The Biden administration strategy can be summed up in three words: invest, align, compete,” Blinken said.
“We will invest in the foundations of our strength here at home – our competitiveness, our innovation, our democracy. We will align our efforts with our network of allies and partners acting with common purpose and in common cause, and harnessing these two key assets we’ll compete with China to defend our interests and build our vision for the future.”
The top US diplomat stressed that Washington is not seeking to block Beijing’s role as a “major power”, but is looking to protect what he called the “rules-based order”, which he said maintains global stability and has enabled China’s own rise.
“We are not looking for conflict or a new Cold War,” Blinken said. “To the contrary, we’re determined to avoid both.”
A spokesperson for China’s Washington embassy told the Reuters news agency that the two countries shared “extensive common interests and profound cooperation potential” and “competition … should not be used to define the overall picture of the China-US relations”.
“China and the US both stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation,” said Liu Pengyu, who said the relationship was “at a critical crossroads”. US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Ji Xinping held virtual talks in November 2021, and they spoke again in March.
“We hope the US side will work with China to earnestly implement the common understanding reached by the two leaders to enhance communication, manage differences and focus on cooperation,” the embassy spokesman told Reuters.
The relationship between Washington and Beijing has seen growing tensions in the past few years as the US prioritised strategic competition with China in its foreign policy under former President Donald Trump, a position fully embraced by Biden.
Amid efforts to mend ties, the Biden administration irked China last year when it secured a deal with the United Kingdom to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
Biden also has pushed to revive the Asia-Pacific Quad alliance with India, Australia and Japan, and met with the countries’ leaders during his visit to Tokyo earlier this week after hosting them at the White House in September.
Earlier in May, the US also held a summit in Washington for the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), many of which have disputes with Beijing over competing claims to the South China Sea.
Biden drew Beijing’s ire this week when he said the US would come to Taiwan’s aid militarily if China tries to capture the self-governed island by force.
Another issue in the relationship is the US’s criticism of China’s human rights record. In its final days in 2021, the Trump administration accused China of committing genocide against its Uighur Muslim population in the western region of Xinjiang – a determination that was backed by Biden and his foreign policy team.
China has rejected the genocide charge, calling it “slanderous” and “absurd”, arguing that the US is pushing the accusation for geopolitical reasons.
US grievances
On Thursday, Blinken outlined Washington’s grievances with Beijing, saying that China has become “more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad” under President Xi.
“We see that in how Beijing has perfected mass surveillance within China and exported that technology to more than 80 countries,” Blinken said. “How it’s advancing unlawfully maritime claims in the South China Sea, undermining peace and security, freedom of navigation and commerce.
“How it’s circumventing or breaking trade rules, harming workers and companies in the United States, but also around the world. And how it purports to champion sovereignty and territorial integrity while standing with governments that brazenly violate them.”
The US secretary of state was referring to China’s close ties with Russia, which have persisted after the invasion of Ukraine despite Washington’s warnings.
China has taken a neutral public position on the war in Ukraine, urging nations to support efforts to reach a resolution to the conflict, while resisting pressure from Washington and its allies in Europe to condemn Russia.
It also has repeatedly criticised what it calls illegal and unilateral Western sanctions.
Blinken’s speech comes as China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi starts a tour of 10 Pacific states, including the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and East Timor, to strengthen ties with the countries.
“It’s fairly clear that Xi Jinping views his most important legacy as making China a superpower, as returning China to what he sees as its historically rightful place as a world power,” said Christopher Heurlin, associate professor of government and Asian studies at Bowdoin College in the US state of Maine. “And that means economic growth, but it also means becoming a military power that’s able to exert a large influence on politics in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.”
For the US, Heurlin said focusing on competition with China is one of the few things that unites Republicans and Democrats.
“There’s definitely a desire to preserve America’s superpower status and its influence in the world order, which does mean that these two countries do have conflicting objectives to a certain extent. So, there is certainly potential for tensions at the very least,” he told Al Jazeera.
Although the Biden administration purports to be safeguarding the international order that is rooted in documents such as the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, critics of US foreign policy say Washington has violated these principles.
For example, in 2003 the US led an invasion of Iraq without authorisation from the UN Security Council.
The Biden administration also continues to defend Israel at international forums and provide military aid to the country although Israel violates numerous provisions of international law, including by building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Moreover, Washington has recognised Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights.
Greater investments
On Thursday, Blinken said Washington’s strategy to counter Beijing will see greater investment in research and innovation in the US. He also said Biden has directed the Department of Defense to hold China as its “pacing challenge”.
“The administration is shifting our military investments away from platforms that were designed for the conflicts of the 20th century toward asymmetric systems that are longer range, harder to find, easier to move,” he said.
Blinken highlighted the Biden administration’s emphasis on alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Quad, ASEAN and the security partnership between the US, UK and Australia, known as AUKUS.
He noted that Biden this week launched an initiative known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, bringing more than a dozen states from the region together in economic cooperation.
While Blinken made it clear that the competition with China will shape US foreign policy going forward, he said there are areas where the two countries should work together, including mitigating the climate crisis, combating COVID-19, thwarting the illicit drug trade and ensuring global food security.
Against this backdrop, the top US diplomat warned against hate or hostility at home against Chinese Americans and Asian Americans more broadly.
“Chinese Americans made invaluable contributions to our country; they’ve done so for generations,” Blinken said. “Mistreating someone of Chinese descent goes against everything we stand for as a country – whether a Chinese national visiting or living here or Chinese American or any other Asian American, whose claim to this country is equal to anyone else’s.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Keep the South China Sea free, Biden tells Navy graduates

Keep the South China Sea free, Biden tells Navy graduates

 U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin's attempt to divide Europe by invading Ukraine had backfired and told Naval Academy graduates their job will be ensuring maritime freedom in the South China Sea.



Biden told 1,200 graduating cadets in Annapolis, Maryland, that they are entering military service at a time of many global challenges and they will be charged with helping "preserve stability in an uncertain world."
"We're going to look to you to ensure the security of the American people," he said.
Biden, who helped form a coalition of nations to oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine, had harsh words for Putin and said his attempt to divide NATO allies had failed.
"Not only is he trying to take over Ukraine, he’s literally trying to wipe out the culture and identity of the Ukrainian people. Attacking schools, nurseries, hospitals, museums, with no other purpose than to eliminate a culture," Biden said.
Putin tried to "Finland-ize" Europe but "instead he NATO-ized all of Europe," said Biden, a reference to neutral nations Finland and Sweden's plans to join the alliance.
Just back from a week in Asia, Biden said the Indo-Pacific maritime theater will be the "leading edge" of the U.S. response to natural and humanitarian disasters there.
"You'll defend the international rules of the road, underwrite the future of the Indo-Pacific that is free and open, ensure freedom of navigation of the South China Sea and beyond, and make sure the sea lanes remain open and secure," he said.
"These long-standing basic maritime principles are the bedrock of a global economy and global stability. You're going to help get together our allies in Europe and with our allies in the Indo-Pacific," Biden added.
Biden, a Democrat and former senator, noted that he and Republican Senator John McCain, the Naval Academy graduate who is buried in Annapolis after dying of cancer in 2018, battled "hammer and tong" on policy but remained friends.
During a death bed visit in 2018, Biden said McCain made a request that he quickly agreed to: "Joe, will you do my eulogy?"

Monday, May 30, 2022

Philippines: Marcos Jr. to stand by South China Sea ruling

Philippines: Marcos Jr. to stand by South China Sea ruling

Philippines: Marcos Jr. to stand by South China Sea ruling



The Philippines' incoming president vowed to prevent any foreign interference in the running of his country in comments aimed at Beijing’s claims over the disputed South China Sea.
Philippines Manila | Ferdinand 'Bongbong Marcos Jr.
After sweeping this month's election with 59% of the vote, Marcos will take office on June 30
Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the president-elect of the Philippines, said said he would uphold an international ruling against China over disputed waters, vowing on Thursday to prevent any foreign interference in the running of his country.
China has staked its claim over nearly all of the South China Sea's resource-rich waters. In turn, it faces competing claims from other major stakeholders, including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
"There is no wiggle room there. Our sovereignty is sacred. We will not compromise it in any way," Marcos Jr. said in his strongest comments yet on handling ties with China.
"We are a sovereign nation with a functioning government. We do not need to be told by anyone how to run our own country," he said in the interview with his new press secretary that was posted on Facebook. "There is no room for negotiation there. It is sacred, inviolable."
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 declared that Beijing's historical claim on the waterway was without basis, a decision that was ignored by China.
Precarious relations with China
After outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte pushed for warmer ties with China by setting aside the ruling over promises of trade and investment, critics say commitments haven't been met.
Marcos Jr., popularly known as "Bongbong," is also expected to foster a relationship with China after promising to elevate and expand ties during a phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.
In his latest comments, however, 64-year-old Marcos Jr. said he would not "allow a single millimeter of our maritime coastal rights to be trampled upon".
"We have a very important ruling in our favor and we will use it to continue to assert our territorial rights. It is not a claim. It is already our territorial right," Marcos Jr. said.
"We're talking about China. We talk to China consistently with a firm voice," but adding, "We cannot go to war with them. That's the last thing we need right now."
The pro-China stance could also complicate the Philippines' relationship with its historical ally, the United States.
A road full of challenges
After winning more than 59% of the votes in the latest election, Marcos Jr. is set to formally take office on June 30. He is the son of Ferdinand Marcos, a dictator who ruled the Philippines for 20 years before being ousted by a people's revolt in 1986.
Marcos Jr. and his running mate Sara Duterte, daughter of the incumbent president, are expected to embrace the key policies of the elder Duterte. However, the incoming president signaled that he would not adopt his predecessor's "slightly unorthodox approach" to foreign policy.
Instead, Marcos Jr. has sought to strike a balance between China and the United States, saying: "We are a small player amongst very large giants in geopolitics. We have to ply our own way."
"I do not subscribe to the old thinking of the Cold War where we had this spheres of influence where you're under the Soviet Union or you're under the United States," he said. "I think that we have to find an independent foreign policy where we are friends with everyone. It's the only way."

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Japan, UK agree on defense pact amid China's rise in Indo-Pacific

Japan, UK agree on defense pact amid China's rise in Indo-Pacific

 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed in principle Thursday on a defense cooperation pact as part of their efforts to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific, in a veiled counter to an increasingly assertive China.

A reciprocal access agreement, when signed, would enable faster deployment of their troops and allow them to engage in joint training and disaster relief efforts. Japan recently signed a similar RAA with Australia.
Kishida highly appreciated Britain's increased involvement in the Indo-Pacific region, and the two leaders expressed "strong concern" about unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China seas and "rapid but not transparent" military build-up and activities, the Japanese government said.
The two leaders agreed to resolutely counter such unilateral attempts or economic coercion, the government said, without singling out China, the world's second-largest economy that has been attempting to expand its sphere of influence with its military and economic clout.
"Ukraine may be tomorrow's East Asia," Kishida said at a press conference in London after meeting with Johnson. "Russia's aggression is not an issue only for Europe. The international order encompassing the Indo-Pacific is at stake."
In that respect, Kishida said, "It is a major outcome that Prime Minister Johnson and I reached an agreement in principle" on the defense pact.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine was another major agenda item for the summit talks. Japan, for its part, has raised the alarm about the ramifications for Asia of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, especially in light of China's perceived desire to seize Taiwan, by force if necessary.
Kishida and Johnson agreed on the need for their two countries and other members of the Group of Seven nations to lead the international community in maintaining sanctions against Russia and extending support to Ukraine.
Expanding Japan's sanctions regime, the assets of more Russian banks and about 140 additional individuals will be frozen and an export ban will target around 70 additional military entities, Kishida said.
Japan will also ban Russia-bound exports of goods using advanced technology such as quantum computers, he said.
The G-7 leaders are expected to discuss further sanctions later this week, U.S. President Joe Biden said, after the European Union unveiled plans to phase out Russian oil imports by the end of this year.
Throughout his five-nation trip to Britain, Italy, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, Kishida sought coordination with his counterparts in responding to the Ukraine crisis and achieving a "free and open" Indo-Pacific.
London, in particular, has been strengthening its commitment to the region in view of its economic and geopolitical importance.
The broad agreement on defense cooperation with Japan apparently reflects Britain's tilt toward the Indo-Pacific.
An RAA, together with an acquisition and cross-serving agreement that enables nations to share ammunition and supplies, serves as the foundation to enhance security cooperation.
Trade was also another topic as Britain, which exited the EU in 2020, is now seeking to join the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.
Japan is a member of what is formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and has welcomed Britain's planned accession.
Japan will work with Britain in persuading the United States to return to the trade deal following its abrupt withdrawal before it took effect under Biden's predecessor Donald Trump, Kishida said at the press conference.
In Thursday's summit, Johnson told Kishida that he expects the British government will lift its import ban on Japanese food by the end of June, according to the Japanese government.
Such restrictions have been in place since the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.
Kishida and Johnson also confirmed they will work together in helping Asian nations develop renewables in their transition to green energy and providing alternative supplies to Russian oil and gas.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Vietnam stresses importance of maritime and aviation security in East Sea at ADSOM+

Vietnam stresses importance of maritime and aviation security in East Sea at ADSOM+

 

Maritime and aviation security and safety in the East Sea (internationally known as South China Sea) is extremely important for countries in the region and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Maritime and aviation security and safety in the East Sea (internationally known as South China Sea) is extremely important for countries in the region and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Vietnamese Deputy Defence Minister Sen. Lieut. Gen. Hoang Xuan Chien made the comment while delivering a speech at the ASEAN Defence Senior Officials’ Meeting Plus (ADSOM ) in Phnom Penh on May 18.
He stressed the need to comply with the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and accelerate the early signing of a practical and effective Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).
Vietnam consistently pursues resolving disputes at sea by peaceful means, on the basis of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he affirmed.
Besides emerging non-traditional security challenges, there have been new, complicated developments regarding traditional security issues, he said.
Given that context, Chien emphasised that Vietnam has always been steadfast in its external policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, friendship, cooperation, development, multilateralisation and diversification of relations.
The head of the Vietnamese delegation expressed his wish for countries to settle conflicts and disagreements by peaceful means, on the basis of respecting international law and the United Nations Charter as well as ASEAN's basic principles.
Since its establishment in 2010 in Hanoi, ADMM has always been identified as an important forum for defence leaders of the 18 member countries to talk about peace, cooperation and mutual development.
Concluding his speech, Chien said Vietnam believes and hopes that conferences within the ASEAN framework, including ADSOM and ADSOM , will help enhance the image and position of ASEAN and make the bloc furthr develop.
The meeting, chaired by Cambodia, drew top defence officials from ASEAN member countries, and Russia, China, the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India as well as representatives from the ASEAN Secretariat.
In his opening remarks, General Nem Sowat, Director General of the General Department of Policy & Foreign Affairs under the Cambodian Ministry of National Defence, thanked ASEAN countries for their joint commitments and efforts as well as the support of partner countries to promote substantive cooperation within the framework of ADMM and ADMM .
ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General Robert Matheus Michael Tene highlighted the importance of the ADMM cooperation mechanism for enhancing regional defense cooperation.
During the event, delegates heard the outcome of the ADSOM Working Group’s meeting; discussed the regional and world defence-security situation, and considered the ADMM joint statement and preparations for the ADMM meeting scheduled for this November./.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

NST Leader: US-Asean summit

NST Leader: US-Asean summit

 

The United States, despite playing catch-up with China, is important to Asean. This is one reason why the US-Asean summit has been going on for 45 years.

Come May 12, Asean heads of state, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, will sit down for two days with US President Joe Biden in the White House to celebrate the four-and-half decades of "partnership" and talk things regional.
And more, now that the war in Ukraine is raging. Asean needs to speak with one voice if it doesn't want to be talked down to by the US, which is in the habit of doing so at every chance it gets. This is a problem.
Very rarely, if ever, do Asean members march to the same beat. Examples are plenty, but take just two: South China Sea and Ukraine.
Start with the South China Sea. This is perhaps the diciest of issues for Asean. And China, with all its heft, isn't making it easy for the bloc. One reason is the infamous U-shaped nine-dash line that in one fell swoop claims for China almost the entire South China Sea.
China summons history to its aid, but many academics have dismissed this nine-dash line as having no ground under international law. And so did the Permanent Court of Arbitration, when in 2016, it sided with the Philippines. To China, the arbitral tribunal was set up unlawfully.
Fortunately for some Asean members who share the maritime area of the South China Sea with China, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (Unclos), to which China is a state party, has a pleasing answer.
Dr Mohd Hazmi Rusli, an associate professor, Faculty of Syariah and Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysa and a research fellow at Australian National University's Malaysia Institute in Canberra, says under Unclos coastal states may claim sovereignty over territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles measured from the baseline.
Beyond the 12 nautical miles limit not exceeding 200 nautical miles, he adds, coastal states may claim an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, where they possess sovereign rights to exploit living and non-living resources within these maritime zones. But diplomatic protests to encroachments by China is a must.
"Coastal states must be steadfast in such protests. They must protest not because the US wants them to, but because the law requires so." The Philippines has been the most vociferous.
Now for Ukraine. This is a recent pet issue for America. Both the US and its European allies have been circumambulating the globe trying to force countries to condemn and sanction Russia.
To most Asean members, wars are wrong and must be brought to a quick end. This they have called for. For the US to compel Asean members to condemn and sanction Russia, like Singapore has done, is going beyond the limit of diplomacy.
The US must be told that such pressures will further divide the already fractured bloc. Things are so bad that some suggest it is just a matter of time before Asean splits into two: Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia on one side and Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand on the other. But this isn't a tidy split either.
On most issues, Asean, almost always, is never united. Come August it will be 55. Make that five-and-half decades of divisions and indecisions.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

ASEAN-U.S. Special Summit 2022, Joint Vision Statement

ASEAN-U.S. Special Summit 2022, Joint Vision Statement

 

WE, the Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United States gather on the occasion of the ASEAN-U.S. Special Summit, the first-ever to be held in Washington, D.C., on 12-13 May 2022.

EMPHASIZING the importance of adhering to key principles, shared values and norms enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, the ASEAN Charter, the Declaration on Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP);
EMPHASIZING the importance of creating a peaceful environment for further enhancing cooperation and strengthening the existing bonds of friendship among our countries in keeping with the principles of equality, partnership, consultation, and mutual respect, guided by the principles of the East Asia Summit (EAS) Declaration on the Principles for Mutually Beneficial Relations (Bali Principles);
RECOGNIZING that our cooperation has long been indispensable to ASEAN, to the United States, and to the broader international community, beginning with our first dialogue, in Manila in 1977, and growing with the United States’ signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia; with the establishment of a U.S. Mission to ASEAN, in Jakarta; and with the founding of the ASEAN-U.S. Summit;
NOTING that both the AOIP and the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States share relevant fundamental principles in promoting an open, inclusive, and rules-based regional architecture, in which ASEAN is central, alongside partners who share in these goals;
REAFFIRMING our shared commitment to strengthen and build more comprehensive ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue Relations, which have long been indispensable to ASEAN and the United States, as well as the broader region and the international community, in order to continue promoting and maintaining peace, security, stability and prosperity in the region; to ensure that relations remain adaptable to meet new challenges; and to appropriately cooperate in international and regional fora of which ASEAN Member States and the United States are members.
FURTHER REAFFIRMING our shared commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security and stability in the region, as well as to the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with international law.
WE HEREBY DECLARE:
As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue Relations in 2022, we commit to establish an ASEAN-U.S. Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that is meaningful, substantive, and mutually beneficial at the 10th ASEAN-U.S. Summit in November 2022. We look forward to the early completion of the necessary process.
Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, building better health security, and recovering together
We support ASEAN’s pandemic recovery and health security efforts by strengthening regional and national health systems and capabilities, such as through the ASEAN-U.S. Health Futures initiative, and commit to adequate, stronger and sustainable global financing for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, including supporting ongoing efforts with the World Bank and the World Health Organization. In welcoming support extended by ASEAN Dialogue Partners through various initiatives, including the Quad Vaccine Partnership, we remain committed to facilitating equitable access to safe, affordable and quality medicine and health services. We are also committed to expanding local and regional sustainable manufacturing capacity of essential medical products, including through transfer of knowledge on voluntary and mutually agreed terms and provision of technical assistance. We are committed to investing in and strengthening health systems through Universal Health Coverage, in particular primary health care and access to essential health services, and expanding and training the health workforce as strong foundations for regional and global health and health security.
Strengthening Economic Ties and Connectivity
We are committed to continuing to advance stronger, more equitable, more inclusive economic growth and sustainable development, including through the implementation of the ASEAN-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement and Expanded Economic Engagement Initiatives Workplan, and through the vital economic participation of the U.S. in the region.
We are committed to working to meet the region’s infrastructure needs by catalyzing investment in high-standard, transparent, low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure projects that advance inclusive and sustainable economic growth that meet applicable international labor standards and environmental protections.
We are committed to continuing to cooperate to promote trade and investment and facilitating resilient global supply chains and seamless regional connectivity, including for essential goods such as medical supplies, medicines, vaccines, food and agricultural products, commodities, high-tech products, and other essential supplies and services, contributing to sustainable economic recovery and resilience in the region.
We seek to deepen our collaboration on transport connectivity, including air, land, maritime, and transport facilitation program to advance sustainable infrastructure development and support emerging technologies, including electric vehicles.
We remain committed to and invested in prosperity and development in ASEAN and the United States. We will actively partner in the discussions to strengthen regional and global governance systems, and we look forward to further strengthening cooperation including through relevant initiatives or frameworks of the United States or ASEAN.
We are committed to improving cybersecurity capabilities, promoting digital literacy and inclusion, and strengthening frameworks and policies that foster efficiency, innovation, communication, safe and equitable use of the internet and economic prosperity while exchanging views and experiences on cyber threats and on regulatory framework and technical standards that protect personal data in light of emerging technologies and their vulnerabilities.
Promoting Maritime Cooperation
We note the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/75/239 emphasizing in the Preamble, the universal and unified character of the 1982 UNCLOS, and reaffirming that the Convention sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out and is of strategic importance as the basis for national, regional and global action and cooperation in the marine sector, and that its integrity needs to be maintained.
We are committed to advancing our cooperation in the maritime domain through ASEAN-led mechanisms. We plan to forge new ties as well as to promote cooperation and coordination among our relevant agencies, including maritime law enforcement agencies, to collaborate to improve maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, maritime security, and to curb illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing through sharing of information, best practices and expertise, as well as technical assistance, which will complement, and not duplicate the existing mechanisms. We also commit to continuing efforts to protect, restore, and sustainably manage the marine environment.
We are dedicated to maintaining peace, security, and stability in the region, and to ensuring maritime security and safety, as well as freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the seas as described in the 1982 UNCLOS, and unimpeded lawful maritime commerce as well as non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities.
We recognise the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability, and prosperity. We emphasise the importance of practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risk of accidents, misunderstandings, and miscalculation. We stressed the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties. We further reaffirmed the need to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
We underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety. We emphasized the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) negotiations. We welcome further progress towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
Enhancing People-to-people connectivity
We are committed to investing in human capital development, empowering youth and vulnerable or marginalized groups, and strengthening the connections between our peoples, among others, support for English language, digital skills, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) trainings in the region, including through the Billion Futures Program and the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).
We commit to working with partners, including companies and universities, to increase access to education while fostering collaboration and exchanges among our students and workers. Furthermore, we are committed to empowering women and girls and promoting gender equity and equality through enhanced engagement in ASEAN-led mechanisms, including through support for ASEAN’s gender programs and initiatives. We also commit to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities through supporting implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan on Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Supporting Sub-regional Development
We are committed to supporting ASEAN Centrality and unity in promoting ASEAN’s sub-regional development. We further commit to promoting the stability, peace, prosperity, and sustainable development of the Mekong sub-region through shared initiatives under the Mekong-U.S. Partnership (MUSP), which complements the Friends of the Mekong, and supports the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 and the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan IV (2021-2025).
We support ASEAN’s efforts in promoting equitable development, including in the fields of energy transition, transportation, environmental protection, regional resources management, and water data sharing in accordance with the Mekong River Commission’s Procedures for Data and Information Exchange and Sharing (PDIES), by aligning sub-regional growth with the comprehensive development of ASEAN, and to promote complementarity and synergy among ASEAN, MUSP and other existing Mekong cooperation mechanisms.
Leveraging Technologies and Promoting Innovation
We are committed to further exploring cooperation in areas of mutual benefit such as smart manufacturing, blockchain applications, trade facilitation, digital connectivity, digitalisation and e-commerce of MSMEs, e-services, digital financial services and regional payment connectivity, new and emerging technologies in line with relevant ASEAN agreements and frameworks, as well as increase technical assistance for ASEAN Member States to promote innovation, and capacity building on digital skills.
We commit to support the development of ASEAN’s digital infrastructure, to promote the development of peaceful, secure, open, interoperable, reliable, inclusive, and resilient Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ecosystems and 5G networks, and explore ways to strengthen cooperation on digital economy, smart, sustainable city development and emerging technologies, including through the U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership (USASCP).
We are committed to enhancing collaboration in biotechnology, smart farming, both precision agriculture and climate-smart agriculture (CSA), food science, meteorology, microelectronics, marine science, energy, and space.
Addressing Climate Change
We are further committed to working together to advance our respective nationally determined contributions (NDC). We affirm the key role that sub-national actors play in advancing climate action, and intend to collaborate together in the clean energy transition, including through financing and technology. We recognize the importance of taking strong action to reduce methane emissions globally, including through efforts underway such as the Global Methane Pledge.
We are committed to intensifying our partnership to bolster ASEAN’s capacity to enhance disaster resiliency and adapt to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, more frequent flooding, drought and other extreme weather events, heightened risk of water-energy-food insecurity, and ever-more-destructive storms.
We resolve to enhance energy transition and resilience in an inclusive and just manner through the facilitation of clean and renewable energy development, the promotion of public-private collaboration to address transition financing needs, including through blended finance, and the deployment of advanced and emerging low-carbon energy technologies in supporting increased access to energy services and energy security, including ongoing efforts, such as elements of the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) that support the acceleration of energy transition and strengthening of energy resilience in ASEAN, particularly the ASEAN Power Grid.
We resolve to work together to conserve ASEAN’s rich biodiversity and its natural capital, including through preventing, halting and reversing deforestation, and the degradation of ecosystems, as well as the restoration of critical ecosystems including forests, and wetlands, coastal and marine ecosystems, and the continued collaboration with the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).
Preserving Peace, Building Trust
We support ASEAN’s efforts to preserve the Southeast Asian region as a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone and free of all other weapons of mass destruction, as enshrined in the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ Treaty) and the ASEAN Charter to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and to nuclear disarmament as stipulated in Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and peaceful uses of nuclear energy as set forth in NPT Article IV. We remain committed to universalization of the IAEA additional protocol, and support full implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (CWC) and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BTWC).
We reaffirm a shared commitment to the goal of the complete denuclearization and the establishment of a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. We continue to call on the DPRK to fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, taking into account the international community’s call for diplomacy and in the interest of maintaining peace and security in the region.
We remain deeply concerned over the crisis in Myanmar. We highlight Myanmar’s commitment to the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus during the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24 April 2021 and urge the timely and complete implementation of the Five-Point Consensus. We will continue to support ASEAN’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful solution in the interest of the people of Myanmar, including through the work of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar, in building confidence and trust with full access to all parties concerned, and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar, including those who are the most in need, without discrimination. We reiterate our commitment to peace and stability in the region and continue to call for the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and for the release of all political detainees, including foreigners. We will redouble our collective efforts towards a peaceful solution in Myanmar that also reflects a continued commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, as outlined in the ASEAN Charter. We welcome close coordination between the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar and the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar to ensure synergy in this important endeavor.
With regard to Ukraine, as for all nations, we continue to reaffirm our respect for sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity. We reiterate our call for compliance with the UN Charter and international law. We underline the importance of an immediate cessation of hostilities and creating an enabling environment for peaceful resolution. We support the efforts of the UN Secretary-General in the search for a peaceful solution. We also call for the facilitation of rapid, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance for those in need in Ukraine, and for the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel, and persons in vulnerable situations.
As we proceed with implementation of this ambitious agenda in the coming months and years, we look forward to reaching a new level of cooperation and partnership and task our Ministers to coordinate the implementation of this Joint Vision Statement.