17 July 2020
Asian countries who feel pinched by China over competing maritime claims expect the U.S. government to step up aid following Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words of support this week, but only in severe cases and without risking conflict, scholars in the region believe.
In a statement issued Monday, Pompeo promised to protect the maritime rights of the smaller Asian countries in keeping with international law. China vies for maritime sovereignty with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, all of which have weaker militaries. At stake is the shared 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, which is flush with fish and energy reserves. Claimant governments tentatively welcome Pompeo’s offer but want to know what, specifically, Washington will do before feeling more confident, analysts say.
“It will really make Southeast Asia sit up and take notice if there are real concrete actions that follow soon after the recent Pompeo statement, because otherwise it will still remain a statement and people will continue guessing what is going to come after the statement,” said Collin Koh, a maritime security Research fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell hinted at a conference Tuesday there is “room to sanction Chinese officials and state-owned enterprises that engage in illegal activities,” Olli Pekka Suorsa, Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, wrote in a commentary e-mailed to reporters on Thursday.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 20/07/2020