‘NATO’ Game in South China Sea By Yasir Habib Khan

‘NATO’ Game in South China Sea By Yasir Habib Khan

In the grab of the South China Sea dispute, sinister alliances are ganging up against China to create Asia-Pacific “NATO” in the region.

These alliances include AUKUS (Australia-UK-US), QUAD (US-Australia-India-Japan), and the fresh trilateral alliance among the US, Japan, and the Philippines formed during the US President Biden Summit in the White House on April 11.

The strategic architectures reflected through the new trilateral alliance, in combination with the Quad and AUKUS pacts, pave the way for a concerted effort to establish a robust security fabric in the geostrategic landscape. This US-centric network of defense and security alliances evokes a conceptual resemblance to NATO’s structure and serves a dual purpose: shoring up collaborative defense across the Pacific and Indian Oceans while indirectly aiming to counter and contain China’s peaceful rise. Encapsulated in Article 5, NATO’s collective defense principle stipulates that an attack on one is an attack on all. While the trilateral alliance among the US, Japan, and the Philippines has yet to adopt such a doctrine formally, the underlying sentiment of mutual defense is unmistakable.

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“Any attack on Philippine aircraft, vessels or armed forces in the South China Sea would invoke our mutual defense treaty,” said US President Joe Biden during the first summit of the trilateral alliance in the White House a few days back. Blinded by self-assuming “policing role” and hegemonic ambitions, US-led alliances are setting the direction to plunge the South China Sea into conflict.

The tension is so precarious that it may spill out of hands in a twinkle of an eye and beleaguer the peace of the world. It may trigger seismic impacts worse than the Ukraine-Russian discord, Israel-Palestine crisis, Syria war and current Middle-Eastern skirmishes. Awfully, the US is the main abettor among other mischief-mongers.

The world has already been experiencing terrible fallouts of US-led affiliations around the globe and after the former’s inaction, the burning question is now will the international community will continue to stay silent or wake up to put its head together for course correction before it is too late. It is obvious that the purpose behind the looming crisis in the South China Sea is to snub China and undercut its rightful territorial sovereignty just to prove the supremacy of US-likeminded alliances.

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Although there are concerns among Southeast Asian Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines regarding maritime claims nearest to their coasts. Respecting the concerns, China always emphasizes sorting issues through bilateral dialogues. A few days back in the first week of April, the diplomats of China and Vietnam, despite the difference of opinion on claims of water of the South China Sea held an amicable meeting. Bui Thanh Son, the Foreign Minister of Vietnam, and Chinese counterpart Wang Yi reaffirmed their commitment to the code of conduct agreement in the South China Sea (SCS) besides bolstering trade ties.

China also enjoyed good talking terms with the former Manila administration led by ex-president Rodrigo Duterte. During media talk, the former Philippines president said “When I was president of the Philippines, there was no quarrel in the South China Sea, we were able to return to normal (relations),” he told media.

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“I’m pretty sure that it’s the US that is giving instructions to the Philippines, telling the current Philippine government not to be afraid (to go for a fight) because the US will support Manila,” he added.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in a media interview in September 2023 said China had given an assurance that it would continue to negotiate with Southeast Asian countries over territorial claims in the South China Sea. Anwar said Chinese Premier Li was “clear and categorical” in saying that China would continue to negotiate and not “exercise any action that would explode or cause dissension with our colleagues, our friends in the region.”

Issues with Manila are also negotiable in a befitting manner but the US has been egging on the Philippine government to act as a miscreant. Japan has also ganged up with them to call the shots scaling up a new level of hostility with Beijing.

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In order to reinforce engagement with Manila, the US already announced the opening of a U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) office in Manila. The DFC is the United States’ development bank and seeks to mobilize private sector financing in markets like the Philippines. The DFC also works closely with the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC), with which it announced the renewal of a cooperation MOU on the margins of Prime Minister Kishida’s visit, ensuring investments in the Philippines.

With a deeper understanding, it appears that the US-led Asia-Pacific strategy will go amok. Furthermore, such a trilateral security, defense and military alliance between the US, Japan, and the Philippines may result in unpredictable outcomes that could destabilize relative peace and regional security, provoke conflicts, or create new regional security dilemmas and threats. For ASEAN, a bloc that prides itself on diplomacy, this trilateral alliance could be detrimental to regional equilibrium and undermine ASEAN’s centrality in managing regional security issues.

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It could spark a regional arms race, possibly trigger a competitive escalation in military capabilities, cause diplomatic strains, invite reciprocal military posturing, and signal an escalation of regional geopolitical and power rivalry and competition among major powers in the Asia-Pacific.

Yasir Habib Khan
The writer is the president of Institute of International Relations and Media Research (IIRMR). He tweets at @yaseerkhan

‘NATO’ Game in South China Sea By Yasir Habib Khan

Source: https://www.nation.com.pk/21-Apr-2024/nato-game-in-south-china-sea

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