From September 3 to 9, President Benigno Aquino is on an official visit to China. Discussions will focus on maritime boundaries and the control of the area around the Spratly and Paracel islands, the subject of a long dispute. Vietnamese Experts: China pursues the policy of bilateral agreements, to …
Ho Chi Minh City – From 3 to 9 September, the Philippine president Benigno Aquino will be in Beijing on an official visit. The talks with Chinese leaders will focus on economic cooperation between the two nations and the attempt to settle the border dispute in South China Sea, which includes the control of the waters surrounding the Spratly and Paracel islands, rich in gas, oil, raw materials and fish. The summit Sino-Philippines summit is worrying Vietnam, which has strong interests and claims in the area and has recently reached an agreement in principle – yet to be defined – with the Communist leadership in China.
China’s official Xinhua news agency has spoken of the Philippine President’s visit to China, stressing that Aquino and the Beijing leadership will work to “strengthen political, economic and cultural” ties. There are still divisions between the two countries regarding the South China Sea, which has a knock-on effect throughout the Asia-Pacific. However, the diplomatic crisis has not affected trade relations: China has invested 1.5 billion dollars in a car company in Manila, and by 2020 Beijing will have poured an estimated 60 billion dollars into the Philippine’s economy.
Cristino Panlilio, deputy-Minister of Trade and Industry in the Philippines, underlined the common purpose between Manila and Beijing in the fields of oil and natural gas. Companies in both countries, in fact, have begun exploration throughout the territory of South-East Asia. “And China will respect the laws of the Philippines – said Panlilio – during operations in the Spratly Islands.” The government wants to reassure the Filipinos, that “our country, together with China, will derive the benefits.”
The possible rapprochement between Manila and Beijing is viewed with concern in Vietnam whose government, in recent weeks, has worked to reach an agreement with Beijing to control the area. The Hanoi government has been strongly criticized by many of the population, who accuse it of subservience to Beijing. In many cities of Vietnam, there were demonstrations against Chinese “imperialism”. The interests in the region of South-East Asia and the Asia-Pacific also involve international organizations such as ASEAN and superpowers like the United States. There is widespread calls for a multilateral agreement, while China pursues the policy of direct talks avoiding an overall confrontation.
Experts in Vietnamese history and geo-politics, contacted by AsiaNews, believe that the talks between China and the Philippines serve only “as an excuse” to Beijing to take over a greater control, at the expense of Hanoi and to the “exclusive benefit” of the interests of China’s communist government. Forecasts indicate that the situation in South-East Asia is destined to become further “complicated”. The talks with Manila are a “first step” by Beijing in its strategy of bilateral agreements with the various players in the game, also thanks to massive funding for governments that are struggling to face the global financial crisis.