US Pacific Fleet commander warns Asia it risks Crimea-like crisis

March 19, 2014 11:35 am
US Pacific Fleet commander warns Asia it risks Crimea-like crisis
By Ben Bland in Jakarta
The commander of the US Pacific Fleet has hit out at China’s “revanchist tendencies” and warned that Asia-Pacific nations must forsake “unilateral actions and inflammatory rhetoric” or risk stumbling into a Crimea-like crisis that would damage the global economy.

Speaking at a security conference in Jakarta on Wednesday, Admiral Harry Harris warned that “the prosperity of all our nations” depends on countries resolving the region’s intractable maritime disputes through multilateral talks.
“Just consider the current global tensions caused by one neighbour against another in the Crimean peninsula,” he told delegates including senior military officials from China, Japan and several southeast Asian nations. “It’s imperative for every nation represented here today that we keep something like that from ever happening in this region of the world.”
China’s increasingly assertive posture in the contested East China and South China seas has deepened disputes with other nations that claim parts of these waters, including Vietnam and US allies Japan and the Philippines.
Analysts say the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia is in part a response to China’s fast-growing naval power and the fear that Beijing’s uncompromising stance could endanger key trade maritime routes.
Admiral Harris, who took charge of the US Pacific Fleet in October, told the Financial Times that maritime tensions in the region were at the highest point he had seen for 30 years because of China’s “destabilising” influence.
“We welcome the rise of a strong and prosperous China that adheres to international norms,” he said on the sidelines of the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue. “What worries me though is China’s lack of transparency at times and their revanchist tendencies. I worry about that and I think it’s destabilising in the region.”
But Sun Jianguo, the deputy chief of general staff for the Chinese army, dismissed the claim that Beijing was responsible for escalating tensions, arguing that China was facing “pressing and immediate risks” because of provocations by other nations.
“We face so many disputes and some disputes are very thorny and difficult to tackle,” he said, speaking alongside Admiral Harris. “In particular, some are trying to take advantage of these disputes to realise their own strategic objectives. Our goal is to make sure these disputes are properly managed and will not blow into conflict or war.”
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, parts or all of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
While the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations has been pushing for all the claimants to discuss the disputes on a multilateral basis, China has repeatedly insisted that it will only negotiate bilaterally.
Admiral Harris, who has a Japanese mother and is the highest ranking Asian-American in the US navy, said that while the US does not take positions on the territorial claims themselves, it believes that “the key to the resolution of the disputes is multilateral dialogue, not a series of bilateral dialogues.”
He reiterated US support for a long-discussed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between China and Asean. He also backed efforts by the Philippines to resolve its dispute with China through the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, a process that Beijing has said it does not recognise.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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