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How the US got outplayed in the Asia-Pacific

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In the waning days of the Obama administration, the worm may be turning regarding the US military’s welcome in Asia. Indeed, the Obama foreign policy brain trust may be underestimating China’s diplomatic leverage and skill, and overestimating its own.

The current trends are not auspicious for the US. Indeed, we may be seeing a slow but sure seismic shift in US political standing in the region. [READ MORE]

Vietnam Poised To Be Asia's Next Economic Tiger

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For many of my generation, Vietnam remains a complex enigma, depending on our personal experiences and memories of the country.

I arrived in Vietnam in 1970 as a U.S. Army captain and was immediately overwhelmed by the country’s natural beauty and the genuine warmth and hospitality of the local Vietnamese. [READ MORE]

How Laos Tries to Balance Its Powerful Neighbors

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HONG KONG — A rare spotlight is being cast on Laos as world leaders, including President Obama, prepare to gather in its capital, Vientiane, for meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, and other countries beginning on Tuesday.

A former French colony that gained full independence in 1954, Laos is one of the world’s few remaining Communist countries. It has long depended on its neighbors China, Vietnam and Thailand for investment and political patronage.

Beijing is on the back foot over the South China Sea dispute - America must act now

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Since the Tribunal constituted under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea handed down its unanimous and sweeping award on July 12 in the case brought by the Philippines against China, there has been an eerie calm in the waters of the South China Sea.

As expected, Beijing rejected the ruling, which found that China has no legal basis for claiming historic rights inside its nine-dash line that covers 62 percent of the South China Sea's approximately 1.4 million square miles of water. [READ MORE]

Would America Really Go to War Over the South China Sea?

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What would America do if China starts to build an island base on Scarborough Shoal, declares an ADIZ over the Spratlys, or in some other way plainly takes steps to strengthen still further its grip on the South China Sea in defiance of international law and American demands?

President Obama ought to think about this very carefully as he visits China for the last time as President, because it has become the question that will define the future of the US-China relationship.

UNCLOS Won't Help America in the South China Sea

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Last month’s much-awaited ruling in Philippines v. China rekindled a longstanding debate among foreign-policy experts and elected officials over the implications of the Senate’s decades-long refusal to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

But rather than focus on China’s blatant disregard for its international legal obligations, some have highlighted that the United States’ absence from UNCLOS allows China “to deflect U.S. criticism and highlight Washington’s hypocrisy,” as East Asia expert Ali Wyne put it. [READ MORE]

ASSESSING THE MILITARY SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA LAND FEATURES

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This article aims to provide a fair assessment of the military significance of the South China Sea land features. The term land feature is intentionally selected to avoid the trouble of arguing whether they are islands, reefs, shoals or rocks.

How these land features can be categorized into the terms shown above may possibly cause differences according to the international regimes governing maritime jurisdictions, but not the military significance of the land features alone. [READ MORE]

AFTER THE ARBITRATION: DOES NON-COMPLIANCE MATTER?

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International law does not contain an enforcement mechanism comparable to those of domestic legal systems.

Two previous cases where states explicitly announced that they would not comply with the decision of a dispute settlement body are relevant to the Philippines v China arbitration. [READ MORE]

5 Things About Asean and the South China Sea Dispute

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On July 12, an international arbitration tribunal at The Hague ruled that China’s so-called “nine-dash line,” a demarcation it uses to claim most of the South China Sea, had no legal basis under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea, a treaty to which China and Southeast Asian nations are parties.

The ruling was a win for the Philippines, which instigated the case in 2013, but also for countries that claim usage rights extending 200 nautical miles from their shores into the sea, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. [READ MORE]

Parting the South China Sea How to Uphold the Rule of Law

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 After more than three years of proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an international body in The Hague, a tribunal constituted under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) issued a widely anticipated decision in a case the Philippines brought in 2013 to challenge China’s maritime claims [2] to most of the contested waterway [3].

Many observers had expected the tribunal to rule in Manila’s favor. They’d also expected China to reject the tribunal’s decision, since Beijing, a signatory to the convention, has long opposed the proceedings and had warned that it would not abide by the judgment. [READ MORE]

How to Avoid War in the South China Sea

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President Xi Jinping seems to agree with the Athenian general who, more than 2,000 years ago, warned the people of Melos that  the strong do what they wish and the weak do as they are compelled.

His government insists that nearly all the South China Sea belongs to China—even islets and reefs close to the Philippines and five other littoral states but hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland. Instead of raising China in harmony, Beijing’s policies point the world toward the brink of war. [READ MORE]

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