Saturday, November 25, 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

 

Huge Japanese business delegation focuses on EEC

Posted by pakin On September - 12 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

About 50% of FDI for first half of the year comes from single economic partner.

AS A MASSIVE delegation from Japan visits the Kingdom, Thailand expected them to boost investment in infrastructure, particularly for dual-rail, high-speed trains, by next year to steer development in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.

Other infrastructure projects encouraged by Prayut included ports, aviation and digital systems in line with the 10 new industrial groups targeted to become Thailand’s economic growth engines. “The first five years will focus on these developments. I look to Japan as a good example of train development,” Prayut said.

“In the future, there will also be developments in the West, North and the South. We have to integrate all these plans to connect investments and services, not only among regional provinces but also with CLMV countries,” he said, referring to the grouping of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The Thai government also expected to facilitate development in the EEC by creating fast tracks such as encouraging more “public-private-people” cooperation, he said.

Thailand plans to invest about Bt700 billion to construct and develop infrastructure in the EEC as part of a five-year plan.

The Kingdom also looked forward to new cooperation and exchanges in industry, innovation and technology as well as support for SMEs, the premier said.

With Japanese SMEs contributing greatly to that country’s economy, accounting for more than 90 per cent of businesses in Japan, Prayut said he expected that they and around 3 million Thai SMEs could help to support each other in creating jobs.

Prayut welcomed at Government House yesterday Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Investment, along with 570 high-level Japanese business people, representatives from economic organisations and SME entrepreneurs who are visiting Thailand from yesterday until tomorrow.

Seko referred to Thailand’s crucial role as Asean’s industrial hub, which Japanese companies have utilised for a long time. “The numbers of Japanese research and development facilities in Thailand is one example,” the minister said. “Our economic-centric cooperation is going to step up as high-level industry development.”

 

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.

 

Obama’s pivot to Asia is dead. Despite the Trump administration’s confrontation with North Korea dominating headlines for the past several weeks, in the back channels of a major regional summit, diplomats all whispered the same thing, the pivot was over.

f anything, Trump’s obsession with North Korea and the administration needing a win on foreign policy matters means that he has softened his stance towards China, a nation he once accused of unfair trade practices and currency manipulation.

Trump has been effusive in his praise of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in recent weeks, calling him a strong leader and someone that he got along with very well.

What it means for regional players attending a conference like the ASEAN summit is that China can freely flex its muscles and assert its influence over individual members.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Chairman’s statement on Saturday which recapped the 3-day summit.

Despite four of the ten members having serious issues with Beijing over the South China Sea, the statement released was, as an Indonesian senior diplomat bluntly put, “soft.”

As the US pulls away from the region and with a growing recognition by Trump that he would have to cede some influence to coerce China to his aid on the Korean peninsula, individual ASEAN members were more vulnerable than ever to China’s bidding.

Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar, countries with no stake in the South China Sea, have already courted Beijing for investment and arms with the understanding that it would need to vote Beijing’s way on certain matters.

The Philippines, as host of the summit, softened its stance considerably on China and did not press for confrontation with the superpower in any of the closed-door meetings despite having won an arbitration hearing at the United Nations which invalidated Chinese claims to the South China Sea.

The softer stance reflected President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous statements that he was willing to negotiate with China and his recognition of Beijing’s influence and deep pockets.

While the chairman’s statement did mention the South China Sea the timorous set of generalities may as well not have been published at all.

The leaders of ASEAN are due to meet in again in Manilla in November of this year. As per tradition, the second ASEAN summit of the year will also play host to the East Asia Summit.

With both Trump and Xi (and Putin) due to arrive for the talks, it will be interesting to see how much ground Trump gives in order to advance his own foreign policy agenda. Until then, the United States pivot to Asia is effectively dead.

TAG CLOUD