SHOULD POWERS OUTSIDE THE EAST ASIA REGION INTERVENE IN INTRA-REGIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS?
The United States has been a major player in the Asia regional politics. Today it has military bases in Japan, South Korea and Australia. Recently, it even made a trade agreement with its old enemy, Vietnam. However, due to the rise of China, the influence of the United State seems to be diminishing. China’s defence budget have been expanding with double digits on an annual basis for the last decade, and is expected to ensues. Some fear China will be the new superpower soon. This has allowed many Asian coun- tries to favour China over United State in the recent years. As a result, in early 2012 President Barrack Obama announced that USA is shifting its focus back to Asia in an attempt to rectify the region’s problem of growing imbalances. Many of USA’s new allies are nations that are uncertain about the rise of China. Will the presence of USA in Asia lead to peace or increased conflicts in the region?
A look at the map in south eastern China, one would realise that there exist a number of overlapped boundaries between nations. For instance, for the Spratly Islands, up to five countries are claiming the same area. While the island may be unihabited, the real treasure of the island is the huge reserve of black gold underneath the ground. Some of the disputed islands were included in the security treaties signed with foreign powers, such as Pinnacle islands (Diaoyu islands) which was included into the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Co-operation and Security between Japan and the US.
The security panel will thus discuss whether the mutual defense in the dispute, which adds external powers into stakeholders by obligation, will either help to avoid armed conflicts by deterrence or fuel the possibility of wars by increasing mutual suspicion. In the case of South China Sea dispute, there is no treaty of mutual defense involved so that no foreign power has the obligation from legality to intervene. The problem turns out to be whether the foreign power has the right to speak on this issue rather than the utility of its obligation. One example is India’s role in the South China Sea dispute. India’s state-owned-corporation attempted to cooperate with Vietnam to exploit oil and gas resources in disputed region. However, many stakeholders are strongly opposing this proposal. Bilateral cooperation between involved states and foreign powers can be beneficial to the formation of multi-lateral settlement of the SCS issue.
Political struggles ensue
There has been attempts to form a consensus of the settlement of the dispute internally. The recent example can be the ‘South China Sea consensus’ of ASEAN summit in November 2012: “On the issue of the South China Sea, ASEAN leaders agreed to continue to address this issue in the existing ASEAN-China framework,” said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. It should be noted that even though there is a hope to settle the dispute internally and peacefully, the related states may be deterred by great power to accept a scheme which is not favorable to them. Therefore, the effect of external powers’ interventions may not only be considered for the sake of solving the issue without conflicts, but also justly. The involvement of foreign states may balance the power among disputed states so that weaker candidates will not be bullied.