Thursday, November 23, 2017
Get Adobe Flash player

Asean takes calm tack on South China Sea

Posted by pakin On November - 14 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Parties agree to work towards new code of conduct governing disputes.

ASEAN PUSHED for early negotiations on the Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea during the 31st Asean Summit and 20th Asean-China Summit yesterday.

In a continued effort since the CoC framework was adopted during the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) in August, both sides agreed to kick off negotiations by early next year, a source said.

The CoC, while not itself an instrument to manage territorial disputes, takes the sides a step closer to realising a legally binding tool regarding territories contested by China and four Asean countries.

Host country Philippines, one of the contestants, had appeared to preserve its original stance on the long-contested sea, before releasing it in a document seen by The Nation.

Two paragraphs mentioning the South China Sea were softer than those in earlier joint communiques released after the AMM.

The Philippines, which chairs Asean this year, has taken a soft stance over territorial disputes with China since the current administration under President Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

Members of Asean, including the Philippines and Vietnam, have been at loggerheads with China over territorial disputes in the contentious sea for decades. The issue always raises temperatures at Asean meetings, but received a relatively calm reception this year as conflicting parties sought to compromise.

Vietnam and China agreed yesterday to back away from conflicts in the South China Sea, in a move aimed at easing tensions over Beijing’s claims to most of the waterway, according to an AFP report from Hanoi.

Hanoi and Beijing agreed to maintain peace in the seas, the countries said in a joint statement during a state visit to Hanoi by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

They agreed to “well manage disputes at sea, make no moves that may complicate or expand disputes, [and] maintain peace and stability on the East Sea”, the Vietnamese version of the statement said, using Hanoi’s term for the sea.

During a meeting at the Asean-China summit in Manila, leaders of both sides said they had agreed to officially commence negotiations with China on the CoC. “[We] trust that we will continue this positive momentum and work towards a substantive and effective CoC,” a statement said.

They also called the situation “calmer”, a rare official note on the conflicting sea, adding that the detente “cannot [be taken] for granted and needs further cooperation”.

Under Duterte, the Philippines has shifted its approach from collectively calling on Asean to cope with China to a more “friendly” approach to negotiations.

That stance was reiterated yesterday by Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who also recalled Duterte’s bilateral meeting with President Xi during the Apec Summit last week in Vietnam.

“[Duterte] opted for friendly relations with China and also reinstates warmer [relations] with Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia,” Roque said, referring to all countries contesting the “West Philippine Sea”, as the Philippines refers to the body.

“It is not in the interest of either China or the Philippines to resort to military forces. China is also pursuing with bilateral [talks] with every claimant.”

“It is a hope of all Asean countries that the CoC will be concluded as soon as possible,” he added

 

Tillerson to press Thailand on North Korea

Posted by pakin On August - 3 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will press Thailand and other Asian countries to take tougher action against North Korea when he visits Bangkok and attends regional meetings in Manila starting this week, a senior US official said on Wednesday.

Tillerson will visit Thailand next Tuesday and then Malaysia. His visit includes a trip to the Philippines this weekend for the start of Asean meetings and the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), which includes North Korea.

Susan Thornton, the acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said Tillerson will meet with Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai during his overnight stay in Bangkok Tuesday night. The two met privately in Washington in May.

His visit to Bangkok will be the first by a US secretary of state since the military seized power in the May 22, 2014, coup.

US-Thai relations have warmed this year, after the election of President Donald Trump. President Barack Obama and his secretaries of state – Hillary Clinton and John Kerry – pressured Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the regime to hold elections and resume democratic rule.

He plans to engage with China’s foreign minister at the meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila, but had no plans to meet North Korea’s foreign minister there.

Thornton said Tillerson, who begins his quick Asean tour in Manila on Saturday, will press Thailand for greater cooperation in isolating North Korea and in enforcing UN sanctions over its missile and nuclear weapons programmes. She said Washington wanted to see countries “drastically” reduce their dealings with Pyongyang.

“What we are trying to do is galvanise this pressure and isolate North Korea so it can see what the opportunity cost is over developing these weapons programmes,” she told reporters in a telephone briefing to preview Tillerson’s trip.

During his overnight stay in Bangkok, Mr Tillerson will pay respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He is expected to stress the “enduring” US-Thailand partnership, his spokesman said earlier.

Mr Tillerson is intimately familiar with Thailand. As a rising executive on his way to become chief of Exxonmobil, he was president of Esso Exploration and Production Khorat Inc.

Starting in 1996, he directed the ramping up of production in Thailand’s first commercial natural gas field at Nam Phong district of Khon Kaen.

Thailand has diplomatic relations with Pyongyang including full embassies in each other’s capitals.

Thornton said China had taken “significant steps, … frankly unprecedented steps” to increase pressure on its neighbour North Korea, but it could do “a lot more” to step up enforcement of existing sanctions and to impose more.

“We would like to see more action faster and more obvious and quick results, but I think we’re not giving up yet.”

US President Donald Trump on Saturday accused Beijing of doing “nothing” to help on North Korea and pointed to the huge US trade deficit with China.

A senior Trump administration official said on Tuesday that Trump was close to a decision on how to respond to what he considers China’s unfair trade practices and was considering action that could lead to tariffs or other trade restrictions on Chinese goods.

Thornton declined to comment on any possible action but stressed that despite Trump’s tweets, North Korea and the trade issue were not linked in a “transactional,” but “in a sort of philosophical way.”

“Can we work together jointly on the key security challenge facing Northeast Asia, which is the North Korea challenge?” she said. “If we can work together to do that, surely we can have a productive, mutually beneficial economic relationship in which we both enjoy reciprocal and fair access to each other’s markets.”

Thornton said Tillerson would continue to press China on the South China Sea issue while in Asia, where the United State has been pressing for rapid adoption of a code of conduct over competing territorial claims.

She said the United States would “certainly” raise human rights with Philippine President Duterte’s government.

US criticism of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama damaged relations between the long-standing allies. Duterte has remained defiant, accusing critics of “trivialising” his drug campaign with human rights concerns.

 

Manila -Long regarded as an inspiration to Filipino soldiers, boxer-turned- senator Manny Pacquiao spent some time with government forces fighting Islamic State-inspired extremists in Marawi.

Senator Manny Pacquiao visited Marawi City on Saturday to boost the morale of Philippine troops fighting against ISISinspired Maute terrorist groups.

Pacquiao arrived at around 9:00 a.m. at Camp Ranao where officials of the Task Force Marawi welcomed him, Radyo Inquirer reported.

“You are fighting for our country. You are not committing sin even though you kill people. You don’t commit sin in the eyes of the Lord because you are doing your duty,” Pacquiao told the soldiers in Camp Ranao.

Thai military ready to aid Philippines

Posted by pakin On July - 26 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The Royal Thai Army (RTA) is ready to send troops to the restive city of Marawi to provide humanitarian aid if the Philippines seeks help from Thailand.

Lt Gen Chatchai Patranavik, chief of the RTA’s Counter Terrorist Operations Centre, says if requested, Thai troops could be deployed to Marawi to provide humanitarian aid for residents affected by the conflict against local militants claiming links to the Islamic State (IS) group.

The relief would be provided under the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) programme. He stressed they would not engage in any combat.

At present, only military advisers from Australia and the United States are deployed in and around Marawi.

“We [Thailand] would have to position ourselves carefully in this operation. Otherwise, we could invite trouble for ourselves. However, if the Philippines seeks help from us, we have to be ready. It is just preparation,” an army source said.

Lt Gen Chatchai was speaking during the 7th Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, held in Bangkok.

The meeting, co-chaired by the Thai and Chinese Defence ministries, aimed to discuss anti-terrorist measures. More than 100 representatives from Asean member countries attended the meeting.

Speaking about the IS issue, Lt Gen Chatchai said there have been no reports of IS activities in the country. He admitted individuals connected to IS had earlier entered the country but have since left.

 

TAG CLOUD