China and Neighbourhood

VARIOUS STRINGS OF PEARLS: RECENT SECURITY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA AND BEYOND

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in a recently published article that this century will become ‘America’s Pacific Century.’ In her text she declared that a strategic shift was underway in America’s foreign policy, a shift away from former hotspots of geopolitical attention towards the region of AsiaPacific. Further, this newly increased engagement of the United States in the region shall be understated through activities in security related issues, too. Clinton made it clear that despite the need to limit expenses in dire economic times, the importance of the Asia-Pacific region will justify the reallocation of resources away from former areas of engagement (e.g., Central Asia).1

Secretary of State Clinton’s remarks were further emphasised by the performance of President Barack Obama at his late 2011 official journey to Asian summits. It was the first time that the US president attended at the East Asia Summit (EAS), a forum formerly existing of 16 East Asian nations which in 2011 accepted the USA and Russia as new members. At this Summit, President Obama seized the opportunity to express the US’ will to establish a new base for US Marines in Australia to secure the waterways. Additionally, he suggested that the various claimant states to disputed areas in the South China Sea should meet at a round table to discuss the disputes multilaterally and that the US would be happy to play a facilitating role in resolving the protracted disputes.2

The reactions from Beijing were instantaneous and unsurprising in its manner. China has been an engaged proponent of excluding outside powers from Asian regional affairs, therefore it strongly supported the EAS as an inclusive Asian organisation. Furthermore, China has been a strict opponent of multilateral discussions in respect of territorial disputes in the South China Sea (SCS). Both standpoints were well-known and it is interesting to analyse what Washington might have affected to undertake these actions when China’s displeasure was guaranteed.

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Published in Political Reflection Magazine Vol. 3 No. 3

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