Row over South China Sea places Taiwan in tight spot

The China Post news staff

The writing is on the wall. The United States is repositioning itself as the benevolent hegemon in the Asia-Pacific. U.S. President Barack Obama has made it his top priority to get Uncle Sam to join and lead what is known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, now a tiny group of four smaller, relatively affluent economies — Chile, New Zealand, Brunei and Singapore — which is expected to grow, with Mexico, Canada and Japan promising to become members together with the United States. On the other hand, Washington has decided to deploy marines in Australia, supported the Philippines for its claim to South China Sea Islands, shown a sign of military assistance to Vietnam by its participation in a sea exercise, and signaled an end to the long-standing sanctions against Myanmar by opening a dialogue. On his way to the just-ended East Asia Summit, Obama said in Australia that the U.S. military would expand its Asia-Pacific role, declaring that America’s “here to stay” as a Pacific power.

None of this sits well with the People’s Republic of China, the world’s second biggest economy, which wants to regain the Middle Kingdom’s ancient leadership status in Asia. Officially, Beijing doesn’t oppose the TPP, though they regard it as an American ploy to encroach on China’s sphere of influence in Asia. China has built up a free trade zone with all member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and is expanding it to include Japan and Korea as the ASEAN-plus-three sphere. The People’s Republic is claiming all South China Sea islands as its own and trying to turn the South China Sea into its lake. That’s why Premier Wen Jiabao bristled at the East Asia Summit when Obama insisted that the solution to the South China Sea problems be discussed at a forum like the one they both attended at Bali. Stating the dispute ought to be resolved through friendly consultations and discussions by countries directly involved, Wen warned the United States, “Outside forces should not, under any pretext, get involved.”