米ASEAN 南シナ海での狼藉に警告した

The Yomiuri Shimbun
U.S., ASEAN warn Beijing over outrageous actions in S. China Sea
米ASEAN 南シナ海での狼藉に警告した

A message has been sent to China, which is attempting to turn the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea into military strongholds, warning that its self-serving actions are unacceptable.

U.S. President Barack Obama invited leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations for the first U.S.-ASEAN summit to be held in the United States.

With the South China Sea in mind, a joint statement by the leaders set forth the importance of maintaining maritime security and safety by ensuring the right to the freedom of navigation, nonmilitarization and self-restraint. It avoided making pointed references to China but implicitly issued a warning regarding China’s outrageous behavior.

One of the artificial islands China has built in the Spratly Islands reportedly contains a 3,000-meter-class runway and hangars for fighter jets.

Test flights were conducted on the island at the beginning of this year, and full-fledged operations of the runway are expected to start shortly.

China has also reportedly deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system and a radar system on an island it effectively controls in the Paracel Islands.

Viewing the United States as an “extra-regional state” in the South China Sea, China refuses to accept U.S. intervention in the region. China may be making too light of the situation, thinking that once it excludes U.S. influence from the region, it can make its maritime interests a fait accompli.

Yet the safety of sea lanes is a common good for the international community, including Japan.

It was natural for Obama and ASEAN leaders to have announced in the joint statement the significance of “an international order where international rules and norms and the rights of all nations are upheld.”

Regular sailings needed

Last October and in January this year, U.S. Navy vessels sailed close to disputed islands in the South China Sea, conducting patrols to concretely demonstrate the right to the freedom of navigation.

At a press conference, Obama said the United States would “continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” clarifying again that the United States would continue its activities in the region. To deter China from taking provocative steps, it is essential for U.S. warships to sail there regularly.

The noticeable difference among ASEAN countries’ enthusiasm for holding China in check is a matter of concern. Such countries as Laos, the current ASEAN chair, and Cambodia have close economic ties with China. A situation in which ASEAN members become further divided in their positions, weakening the pressure they put on China, must be avoided.

The United States is being called on to promote its rebalancing policy, which focuses on Asia, and to exercise strong leadership. Obama’s planned visit to Vietnam in May is part of such efforts.

Obama and ASEAN leaders at the summit also discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord, participated in by 12 countries, including Japan and the United States.

Obama welcomed the participation of four ASEAN members, including Singapore, while expressing support for the remaining six, including Indonesia and Thailand, to join.

An expanded membership in the TPP accord, which strictly regulates trade and investment, would help restrain China, which is taking hegemonic actions in economic fields as well. Greater participation in the TPP by ASEAN member countries would also help vitalize Japan’s trade.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 18, 2016)

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