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Philippines ‘Almost Ending’ Defence Pact With The US Shows Chinese Threat & Influence: Experts

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The Philippines has applied brakes on its plan to end a critical defence pact with the US. When President Duterte suddenly announced to cancel the Philippines-United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) a move didn’t go well with the country’s defence establishment and Duterte was forced to suspend the unilateral decision.

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The Philippines-US VFA is a bilateral agreement which allows the US troops to visit the Philippines and conduct joint military exercises and operations in the region. The Philippine Senate ratified the VFA in 1999 but in February 2020, President Duterte announced the termination of the defence pact which allowed military and humanitarian cooperation between the two nations.

“No more [American] bases” in the Philippines, Duterte directed. “They have to start to talk to us because they have to go.” He also called on the U.S. to “correct” travel bans and sanctions imposed on his inner circle. 

After an announcement to terminate the agreement, the order comes into effect after 180 days which allows for a dialogue between the two nations. The US government refused to agree to President Duterte’s suggested “correction”.

Last week, a formal letter by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs indicated “political and other developments in the region” for suspension of the termination order previously announced by the President.

According to Richard Heydarian, an Asia-based academic, columnist and author, the first thing this change of heart highlights the Philippines’ growing anxieties over China’s strategic opportunism in the South China Sea during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created a dangerous security vacuum in Asia. “China’s expansionism has been creeping as its rivals struggle to contain coronavirus outbreaks,” he added.

Filipino President has long been accused of being a Chinese puppet. This decision to terminate the VFA saw an internal pushback and was even challenged in the Supreme Court. Since the VFA had been ratified by the legislative upper house, the senators argued that its cancellation would require its agreement.

The People’s Liberation Army has been ramping up its military operations in the South China Sea which has threatened its South Asian neighbours. “China may have further spooked its neighbours when a source within its Army suggested that it may soon impose an Air Defense Identification Zone across disputed waters to monitor and even restrict international navigation and overflight,” observed Heydarian.

“The crucial thing that the reversal reflects is Duterte’s growing strategic maturity, namely his reluctant recognition of the importance of security assistance from the U.S,” said Heydarian. He further added that Duterte’s about-face reveals the U.S.’s enduring influence in a region where China’s rising assertiveness has alienated smaller powers.

The humanitarian assistance by the US was particularly seen during the 2013 Haiyan superstorm that hit the Philippines. It displaced more than 14 million people with over 6000 deaths. Thousands of American soldiers were deployed to assist communities across the central Philippines.

“Now that the pandemic is devastating, the Philippine economy and threatening both public health and humanitarian crisis, Duterte has opted to lean on long-standing allies such as the U.S,” said Heydarian.

He concluded with saying that this episode contradicts the long-running accusations that the Filipino leader is nothing but a Chinese puppet. “Duterte may say that he “loves” China, but even the proud populist had to recognize how he needs American military assistance more than ever,” he added.

Via: NAR

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China Imposes Sanctions On US Defence Giant Behind F-16s, F-22 Raptors

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China has threatened to impose sanctions on US defence giant Lockheed Martin – the makers of Stealth F-22 Raptors, in response to US approving of a possible deal for Taiwan to buy parts to refurbish defensive missiles built by the company.

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Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made announced at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, adding that the US should cut defence ties with Taiwan “so that it doesn’t do further harm to bilateral relations and damage peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

“China firmly opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan,” Zhao said, adding: “China decides to take measures to protect national interests. We will impose sanctions on the main contractor of this arms sale Lockheed Martin.”

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The US State Department last week approved a possible $620 million foreign military deal for Taiwan to buy parts of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles so that they can last 30 years.

Beijing’s actions come amid growing tensions between the US and China tensions over various issues including trade war, South China Sea dispute, COVID-19 pandemic, new security law in Hong Kong, 5G network and hostilities against key US allies including India and Australia.

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Despite it being a strategic American ally, the US has no official embassy in Taiwan nor does Australia, Canada, the UK or Germany. China calls Taiwan a ‘renegade province’ and has vowed it to merge it with mainland China, at all costs.

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Asia Pacific

India-China Economic Romance Cannot End With A Mere Border Clash – Chinese Experts

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India and China have been at each other’s throat for more than a month now. Aside from the military confrontation in Ladakh, India has also moved to disengage from China economically.

While the move has got the support from the majority of Indians, Cui Hui’ao of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) writes that disengaging from China might not be a choice for India and that economic de-coupling is driven politically by Narendra Modi.

As reported by Eurasian Times consistently during last month, the feud between India and China has been a rollercoaster ride. From military buildup, deadly clashes to de-escalation and eventual withdrawal, the clash of the two Asiatic giants has seen it all.

Cui writes that apart from the military confrontation, India has retaliated in the economic sphere, referring to the decision by the Indian government to ban 59 Chinese application including TikTok, WeChat and ShareIt and the call to boycott Chinese products.

The journalist at CGTN writes that decoupling from China may be easier said than done for India. He says that India is not a manufacturing powerhouse, so in terms of bilateral trade, it actually buys much more from China than the other way around.

Cui analyses trade data to support the fact that New Delhi will find it difficult to reduce its dependence on Chinese imports. Between April 2019 and March 2020, India imported over 65 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of goods from China.

Cui is of the opinion that the coronavirus pandemic has hit the Indian economy hard and in fact, the disengagement is driven by politics rather than economics. He finds it difficult to accept that India’s disengagement from China would take place at a time when the Indian economy is projected to contract by 4.5% according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Economic Disengagement Driven Politically 

Speaking to Cui, Cheng Xizhong, a visiting professor from Southwest University of Political Science and Law, says that the decision to de-couple from China economically is because of the domestic pressure on Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi.

‘’Since his second term began yet Indian economy is a mess. He has to find a way to shift the public attention elsewhere,” he said.

The author agrees with the point made by Cheng Xizhong and writes that pressure on the Indian PM Modi comes from multiple fronts, including his own supporters, businesses, and farmers union. But this time, the nationalistic voice is even louder.

Other experts interviewed by Chui agree that New Delhi would benefit more if it partnered with Beijing. Professor Cheng, a former Chinese military diplomat in South Asia, said that since India started its opening-up in the 1990s, its economic growth has been crippled by lack of high-quality infrastructure and it would wiser if India and China work together.

Similar views are shared by Indian economist Biswajit Dhar, who says that India’s decision to start producing domestically has to be strategic and it cannot take the decision to produce everything.”

While India and China disengage at the battlefront in Ladakh, the Indian government is looking for solutions to reduce its dependency on Chinese imports. PM Modi has encouraged all Indians to become self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar) by producing and purchasing indigenous goods and boost the Indian economy.

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US-China ties to worsen as Trump set to block all Chinese claims in South China Sea

Ties between US and China could dramatically worsen over the South China Sea after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate. 

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Ties between the US and China are set to further deteriorate over the South China Sea as the Trump administration is set to outrightly reject almost all of Chinese maritime claims in the contentious waterbody.

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The Trump government presented the decision as an endeavour to restrain China’s increasing belligerence in the region with a commitment to recognising international law. This move in the South China Sea will further enrage the Chinese, who are already countering against various US sanctions and other penalties.

Previously, US policy had been to insist that maritime spats between China and its smaller neighbours be settled peacefully through UN-backed arbitration.

But in a statement released on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said. “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”

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Although the US will continue to remain impartial in territorial conflicts, the announcement means Washington is now directly supporting Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese declarations of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding disputed islands, reefs and shoals.

“There are clear cases where [China] is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.

The announcement was released a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favour of the Philippines that discarded Chinese maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.

China has declined to recognise that ruling, rejected it as a “sham” and withdrew from the arbitration proceedings. It has continued to oppose the decision with aggressive actions that have brought it into territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years.

However, as a result, the administration said China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The US has repeatedly said areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a US-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.

In addition to reemphasising support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legitimately claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, Washington said it would regard any Chinese intimidation of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful.

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