Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I really don't think the Sino-ASEAN relations is a zero-sum game directed at the US as this article hinted. However, it is clear that many in ASEAN (Including the Vietnamese) do not see PRC in the same light as many of the more hawkish pundits in Washington.

Southeast Asia military delegates tour China base



NANKOU, China (AP) — Top Southeast Asian military brass toured a tank base north of Beijing on Tuesday, highlighting China's growing engagement with a region that has long felt neglected by the United States.

Officers from the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations viewed a demonstration of sophisticated computer training simulators at the home of the Sixth Armored Division, then posed for photos with members of China's People's Liberation Army in front of tanks, armored personnel carriers and self-propelled artillery.

The division, based in the town of Nankou at the foot of the Great Wall of China, is one of China's elite units, charged with conducting mobile operations and providing security for the Chinese capital.

Tuesday's visit followed two days of workshops focused on boosting cooperation in peacekeeping and humanitarian relief along with efforts to fight piracy and drug smuggling.

"We have seen a real strengthening of Chinese engagement with ASEAN. They're pretty keen on participating in all of our forums," Thai Army Brig. Gen. Chainan Jantakananuruk told The Associated Press.

The U.S., Jantakananuruk said, "needs to get more involved."

China's new engagement is a reassertion of its once considerable influence in Southeast Asia, and could challenge U.S. sway at a time when Washington is distracted by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The region often felt slighted by the Bush administration, and President Barack Obama has sought to reverse this perception of neglect. In February, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton strongly indicated U.S. intentions to step up engagement with a visit to ASEAN's Indonesia headquarters.

"The U.S. must enhance cooperation with ASEAN," said Indonesian Brig. Gen. Subekti, whose country's military has been subject to U.S. sanctions over its rule in East Timor and past human rights abuses.

"Now that Indonesia has made progress in those areas ... whether relations will get better depends on the U.S. getting more involved," said Subekti, who like many Indonesians uses just one name.

Despite such statements, Washington's clout remains and China's recent ties with Southeast Asia have not been entirely smooth. China's enormous economic power has prompted concern, while territorial disputes in the South China Sea have moved no closer to resolution.

China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines have overlapping claims to all or parts of South China Sea island groups and the waters that surround them. Along with rich fishing grounds, the South China Sea is believed to have large oil and natural gas reserves. The disputed island groups also straddle busy sea lanes that are a crucial to China's economy.

Vietnamese Brig. Gen. Nyuyen Duc Thinh said Hanoi preferred to engage Beijing directly in its territorial dispute with China, but said multilateral forums were useful for improving trust and understanding.

Despite recent exchanges of diplomatic protests among the disputants, Thinh said the danger of a conflict remained low.

"It's under control, things are stable, all sides are showing control and restraint," he said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Erik Fogg said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis. There's a good book called "Getting Asia Wrong" by David C Kang (2003) that pretty clearly outlines how China's neighbors are responding to its rise, and most are bandwagoning, due to relative trust in China's claims to non-expansionism, desire for trade, etc; very few are doing any sort of balancing.

Coatepeque said...

yes, I know of Kang's book and I found it a good read. RAND also released a study recently and came to the same conclusion.