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Global Times

US can't 'instigate new conflicts in S. China Sea'

Global Times

By Yang Sheng Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/8 20:48:40

Defense secretary visits Indonesia ahead of ASEAN meeting

With about a month to go before the end of US President Donald Trump's administration, the US still sent its acting secretary of defense to visit some countries around the South China Sea, with observers speculating that the move is meant to add difficulties for the new administration to adjust its strategy in the region.

As long as China can maintain mutual trust and seek peaceful solutions with regional countries over sovereignty disputes, the US has no chance and will be unable to interrupt the regional situation, experts said.

US Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller met Indonesian senior officials on Monday and was set to meet with Filipino officials on Tuesday to garner support for Trump's hard-line stance toward China ahead of the annual ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) and the ADMM-Plus meeting, which are scheduled to be held on Wednesday and Thursday via video links, according to the VOA.

Established in 2010, the ADMM-Plus is a platform for ASEAN members and their eight "Dialogue Partners" — China, Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the US — to strengthen security and defense cooperation for peace, stability and development in the region, according to the ASEAN website.

All eyes are on whether there will be progress in establishing a Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea, especially after the recent signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, a landmark achievement of East Asian regional cooperation, media reported.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Miller's trip is one of the final efforts by the Trump administration to interrupt the peaceful solution of the South China Sea issue, on which regional countries have made joint efforts.

The Trump administration also wants to instigate regional countries to go against China to serve US hegemonic interests, and to make it hard for the Joe Biden administration to reverse or adjust US policy in the West Pacific without political consequences, analysts said.

"China will not expect Biden to act softer than Trump on the South China Sea. In fact, it was the Democrats who started China-US struggles in the region during Barack Obama's term," Li said.

It is a consensus shared by the two major parties in the US to use regional countries to go against China for US hegemony in the South China Sea, although Biden might pursue a smarter strategy than the Trump administration, he said.

The US sees Indonesia as a crucial partner to work with against China, as it believes that Jakarta has mistrust of and disputes with China, and Indonesia is a natural leader of ASEAN, said some foreign analysts.

"But the US can't provide concrete support or benefits to Indonesia while China can, so all regional countries understand that standing with the US against China brings no good, and that's why even a US ally — the Philippines — refused to stand against China," said Li, adding that Indonesia is a regional rival with another US ally — Australia — and has a non-aligned foreign policy.

Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe met with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto in Jakarta on September 8. During the meeting, Prabowo spoke highly of the significant achievements made by the Chinese government and military in the fight against COVID-19, and expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Chinese military for providing epidemic prevention assistance to Indonesia, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Prabowo said Indonesia attaches great importance to relations with China and is committed to further enhancing the close ties between the two countries.

A total of 1.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by China's leading vaccine producer Sinovac Biotech arrived in Indonesia late Sunday, reported the Jakarta Post.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in a televised address that another 1.8 million doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in early January. "We are very grateful, thank God, the vaccine is now available so that we can immediately curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease," Widodo said, the AP reported.

This is what Indonesia and other regional countries can't get from the US, as US-made vaccines are not public goods but prioritize use for Americans. Apart from cooperation in fighting the coronavirus, China also has deep and broad cooperation with ASEAN countries on trade and infrastructure, and these ties make US' interruption more and more meaningless and useless, said Chinese analysts.

As long as China continues its policy to deepen mutual trust and win-win cooperation with regional countries and insists on solving sovereignty disputes via negotiation, there will be no space for the US to make trouble in the South China Sea, said Jin Canrong, a vice dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China.

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