Philippines removes Chinese barrier in contested area

South China Sea: Philippines removes Chinese barrier in contested area

Now.
the Philippine Coast Guard has removed a floating barrier installed by China to prevent
fishing boats entering a contested part of the South China Sea.
The Philippine government said
the barrier was a hazard to regional navigation and a clear violation of international law.
The video the Coast Guard released showed divers beneath the buoys cutting a cable that linked
them all together.
And there was also a photo which showed them removing an anchor that moored
the floating barrier to the ocean bed.
Chinese forces have frequently harassed the Philippine
Coast Guard.
Recently.
they fired water cannon at Filipino boats that were resupplying a military
outpost on one of the disputed reefs.
And recently.
the Philippines signed a mutual
defense treaty with the United States that would extend to an armed attack on the Philippine
armed forces or any of its vessels in the South China Sea.
So big stakes then.
Let’s speak to
Dr.
Bill Hayton.
who wrote a book about the disputes in the South China Sea.
He’s an associate
fellow with the Asia-Pacific Program at Chatham House.
It seems from afar like a minor issue when
buoys are strung out across some fishing grounds.
But of course.
for the reasons I’ve just said.
the mutual defense treaty between the United States and the Philippines.
any instance like
this carries so much risk.
Yeah.
I mean.
you could imagine some kind of small fishing dispute
that escalates and could ultimately result in great power confrontation between the US and China
here.
I think everybody on all sides is aware of the potential risks.
and therefore.
they’re very
careful to manage the risk of escalation.
But it’s interesting to see the Philippines.
you know.
I think knowing that they have the support of the United States here.
being much more forward in
tackling what China’s been doing around this place called the Scarborough Shoal.

that’s interesting.
So you think.
Bill.
that they’re more robust because of the mutual
defense treaty that they now hold?
Well.
the mutual defense treaty has been around for a while.
But what was a problem when President Duterte was ruling the Philippines up until last year was that
he really didn’t want to work with the United States.
He felt he could cut a deal with China
directly and was disappointed.
But with the new president.
Mr.
Frames.
Jr..
he sees much more eye
to eye with the US.
And there’s plenty of evidence that the Philippine side and the US are working
quite carefully together.
I think coordinating their actions.
We’ve seen.
say.
for example.
American surveillance planes flying overhead during some of these confrontations between the
Philippines and China.
And I think a lot of help.
I think.
possibly sort of been in the back room
with sort of diplomatic support and that kind of thing.
And I think that’s given the Philippines
the courage to be a bit more confrontational with China.
We’ve been talking earlier in the
program about the Pacific Islands summit at the White House today.
And it’s interesting that
the likes of the Fijian ambassador that we had on the program.
he wants to talk about climate change.
loss and damage.
And of course.
the White House wants to talk about their strategic interests in
the region.
What sort of role do these Pacific Islands have to play in this struggle between
the United States and China?
Well.
I think all of these countries.
whether they’re Pacific
Islands or they’re Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines.
they want to be taken
seriously on their own accounts.
They don’t just want to be pawns in a game between the US and
China.
In many ways.
the sort of competition between the US and China means that these
countries have a lot more leverage than they used to.
They can play one side off against the
other.
get a bit of extra aid or some military support or whatever it might be.
But they
definitely don’t want to be caught in some kind of great power confrontation with sort of
them as the battleground.
So it’s a kind of mixture of sort of opportunities and risks for
these countries.
And I think the problem with the US strategy that prioritizes a military approach
is it misses out on all of those other things that countries value.
And I think what’s taken
quite a lot of time for the US to try and learn is that it has to be a full spectrum engagement.
like China offers many of them.
whether it be agriculture or health or university education
or whatever it is.
as well as just these sort of geo-strategic levers on either side.
Really interesting.
Dr Bill Hayton.
thank you very much for coming on.
Around the world and across the UK.
this is BBC News.

 

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