CHINA’S DRIVE FOR HEGEMONY IN ASIA GETS A BEATING
June has become a bad month for China’s overweening drive to gain hegemony in Asia and control the sealanes in the South China Sea (SCS), where trillions of dollars’ worth of goods pass annually, Scott Foster, an analyst with Lightstream Research in Tokyo wrote for Asia Times on June 14, 2020.
On June 4, India and Australia announced a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” a “Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific” and a “Mutual Logistics Support Agreement” to increase their military interoperability, making it possible for Australia to rejoin the annual Malabar naval exercises which for the past six years have been held by India, the US and Japan. Australia last participated in 2007. The deal came after Australia clashed with China over the COVID-19 issue and Beijing threatened to stop sending students to study in Australia.
On June 2, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte suspended the abrogation of the Philippines-United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows and governs the presence of US military personnel in the Philippines, after “terminating” it in February 2020 and scrapping it altogether on August 9, 2020. Duterte’s move came when the US approved the sale of weapons worth $1.5-billion and possibly another supply agreement on six helicopter gunships and other weapons worth $450 million. The Philippines also sided with Vietnam after a Chinese coast guard ship sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel near the Paracels in April, nearly a year after Philippine fishing boat was rammed by a Chinese vessel and the Vietnamese rescued the Filipino fishermen stuck in the water.
Vietnam is also cutting free trade deals with the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) while Japan is also seeking a free trade deal with the UK, shunning China and isolating Beijing for its sorry behavior in Asia. “China has promised a lot to the Philippines but delivered mainly encroachment on its territorial waters and those of other members of ASEAN. Even Duterte, a man who has been angry with the United States for decades, has had enough,” Foster concluded.