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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, January 21, 2018

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U.S. locks horns with China

Will remain main underwriter of security in Asia Pacific

Share on Facebook June 4, 2016, Reporter : Big News Network, Reader : 404

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SINGAPORE - At a three-day international security conference in Singapore, defence ministers and experts from 50 countries discussed issues relevant to the security and peace in the region, including tackling terrorism, cybercrime and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.> Big News Network

The conference is strategically being held weeks before the U.N. arbitration tribunal, International Court of Arbitration passes a significant ruling in a case filed by the Philippines challenging China’s claims in the South China Sea. While Beijing has claimed that it would not consider the ruling valid, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction in the case - the United States, backed by Japan has been urging Asian nations to accept the ruling as binding.

Amidst the conflict, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, on day two of the conference, proposed the Asia-Pacific Security Network, further infuriating China.

In his statement at the conference, Carter has proposed to further deepen defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region by bringing cooperating countries together under the umbrella of a “security network.” Militaries of the countries under this network would train together and eventually operate together, Carter proposed.

He said, “It is inclusive, since any nation and any military - no matter its capability, budget, or experience - can contribute. Everyone gets a voice, no one is excluded, and hopefully, no one excludes themselves.”

Even though he said China was welcome in this network, Carter pointed out that China’s expansive moves in the disputed South China Sea has unnerved its neighbours and America has received frequent complaints about China building reefs, islets and other things in the disputed region.

Carter said, China is isolating itself by building up man-made islands there. He pointed out that China’s actions could erect a "great wall of self-isolation."

“There is growing anxiety in this region, and in this room, about China's activities on the seas, in cyberspace, and in the region's airspace. Indeed, in the South China Sea, China has taken some expansive and unprecedented actions, that have generated concerns about China's strategic intentions. I hope that this development doesn't occur, because it will result in actions being taken by the both United States and... by others in the region which would have the effect of not only increasing tensions but isolating China.”

However, he added, “The United States welcomes the emergence of a peaceful, stable and prosperous China that plays a responsible role in the region's principled security network. We know China's inclusion makes for a stronger network and a more stable, secure and prosperous region.”

Visibly upset, Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, Director of the Foreign Affairs Office of China's National Defence Ministry said that Beijing welcomes America’s move to broaden relations with Asian countries. He also emphasised that any attempts made by the United States to isolate China would fail.

He, however didn’t mince words and urged Washington to scale back its military exercises and to reduce “provocations” in the region.

Youfei reportedly cited recent incidents and pointed out that U.S. should stop operating military aircraft and ships in close proximity to other countries claiming, “This will help the U.S. play a better role in the region.”

Carter declared that U.S. will remain the pre-eminent power. He emphasised that the “U.S. intends to maintain, even expand, its military presence in the Asia-Pacific.”

Adding, “The Defence Department maintains its world-leading capabilities because the United States has made incomparable investments in it over decades. As a result, it will take decades or more for anyone to build the kind of military capability the United States possesses. America wants to expand military-to-military agreements with China to focus not only on risk reduction, but also on practical cooperation. Our two militaries can also work together.”

Meanwhile, Indian Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar said, “All countries in the region need to recognise that our shared prosperities and the enviable rate of growth that this region enjoys over past decades will be put at risk by aggressive behaviour or actions by any one of us. No commerce or commercial activity takes place in a high tense region. And I think it is in the interest of everyone, including China, to ensure that the peace remains in this region.”

Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani too emphasised on maintaining peace in the region and pointed out that the South China Sea issue has caused worry. “In the South China Sea, we have been witnessing large-scale and rapid land reclamation, building of outposts and utilisation of them for military purposes. No countries can be an outsider of this issue. It is getting increasingly important for all nations in the region to establish the order based on the rule of the law. Powerful nations are required to act with self-restraint so as to avoid contingency.”

The Malaysia Defence Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein reportedly claimed, “The uncertainty of China's future trajectory is arguably the main driving concern about possible military competition now and in the future.”

Six Pacific nations including Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have territorial claims in the South China Sea that is believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas and also witnesses over $5 trillion in global ship-borne trade passing by each year.

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