The Rush for Bilateral Agreements by Erick San Juan
The US government has intensified it's bilateral negotiations with the countries in the region to strengthen it's influence in Southeast Asia and possibly obtain indirect control over the sea lanes in the Malacca Strait. In this regard, Washington has floated the idea of the need to redeploy troops and it's Seventh fleet in the region. Guam was supposed to be the place for the troops deployment. Many observers believe that the change of plan was due to China's sending it's first aircraft carrier to sea which US defense analyst sees as a challenge to the American military supremacy and interests.
To provide the rationale for plans in changing the policy, there were several pretext used as a way of supporting nation states in the region. Such as, damaged by calamities like the emergency situation in Japan as a result of repeated earthquakes, the effects of technological disaster of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima and terrorism in some parts of the region. White house allegedly want a direct participation and implementation of security measures to ensure security in the region.It also intends to involve US combat units in "helping" the law enforcement units capability of the Asian allies.
But most Asean nations are wary that the deployment could aggravate the situation. which could lead to more terror threat on the Asian sea lanes especially at the Strait of Malacca where a 'Somali' type of pirate operation could ensue.Recently, the US government criticized the leadership of countries that are not effective enough in their fight against piracy in the strait. They are promoting the idea of the need to enhance substantive cooperation with the US forces. To provide impact on their foreign policy affecting the asia pacific region, the US initiates with the support of the US congress, new policies on the important issues of bilateral relations with the countries in the region.
As published in several newspapers last April this year, US senators, Daniel Inouye and Thad Cochran visited the Philippines. During the talk with the Philippine government officials, the American senators reportedly discussed the possibility of US troops returning to the former US bases at Clark Airbase in Pampanga and at Subic naval station in Olongapo. The US legislators raised the issue of refurbishing the installation before the withdrawal of the military personnels of the Seventh fleet from the Okinawa base in 2012. Last March,the US congress delegation headed by Rep. E. Olson negotiated with Thailand Ministry of Trade to provide American businesses access to key sectors of the Thai economy. US was reportedly interested in expanding its business interests in insurance,banking, telecommunication, mining and agricultural market. Congressman Olson reiterated that the issue should be resolved by introducing changes in the bilateral treaty of friendship and economic relations of 1966.
China is doing the same thing by dealing with the Asian bilaterally. But when China started deploying it's first aircraft carrier in the South China Seas, it sent jittery and anxiety to the Asean especially those nations like the Philippines and Vietnam who were once bullied by China.
This could be the complying reason why the US is in a rush to expand it's military presence in the sea lanes of South east asia particularly in the Malacca Strait. The mistrust of China's flexing it's muscle and the fear of President Hu Jin tao's 2004 "New Historic Missions" is unclear. According to Bonnie S. Glaser and Brittany Billingsley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC," China's aircraft carriers could be a threat to US interests." (Source:Perry Diaz blog,August 12,2011)
Such expansions could lead to several negative consequences. It could engender the possible interference of big powers into the internal affairs of the Asean nations. It could also provoke local radicalism, provoke anti-american and anti-chinese sentiments in the process. The geopolitical situation could really provoke a global war if not abated. If the military establishments of these two contending powers will not be controlled by their political leaders, all hell will break loose.