First published on Blogwatch
By many indications, the United States will be stepping up its intervention in the Spratlys territorial dispute. Will that help diplomatically resolve the row among claimant countries? Certainly not. As it appears, the issue is essentially about the US tightening the noose around China – with the help of its Southeast Asian pawns.
As if to rub salt to the wound, the US has initiated a naval exercise with the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand just near the contested territory in the South China Sea. Dubbed Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), the exercise, which runs from June 14 to 24, supposedly “aims to promote regional coordination, information sharing and interoperability in a multilateral environment.”
SEACAT will be followed by another naval exercise between the US and the Philippines in the waters east of Palawan from June 28 to July 8. Two US destroyers will be coming to Sulu Sea as part of the exercise.
Isn’t this conspicuous display of seapower in a time of tension a glaring example of the US gunboat diplomacy? The US and allied SEA states may argue that the exercises have nothing to do with the Spratlys row. Yet obviously, such actions would tend to place China on a more aggressive stance whether they intended it or not.