Monthly Archives: November 2011
Obama Admin Seals Records of Murdered Border Patrol Agent Implicated in Fast and Furious
And to think that Attorney General Eric Holder is getting testy about congressional calls for his resignation. After all, the Justice Department has nothing to hide, right?:
The Obama Administration has abruptly sealed court records containing alarming details of how Mexican drug smugglers murdered a U.S. Border patrol agent with a gun connected to a failed federal experiment that allowed firearms to be smuggled into Mexico.
This means information will now be kept from the public as well as the media. Could this be a cover-up on the part of the “most transparent” administration in history? After all, the rifle used to kill the federal agent (Brian Terry) last December in Arizona’s Peck Canyon was part of the now infamous Operation Fast and Furious. Conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the disastrous scheme allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels.
Link via Judicial Watch. The murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent is related to the Justice Department willingly turning over thousands of guns to Mexican criminal gangs, and Obama administration is hiding information about his death from the public. Amazing.
- WH Cover-Up: Obama Admin Seals Records of Murdered Border Patrol Agent Implicated in Fast and Furious, Whistleblowers Punished (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- Daily Benefactor News – Most Corrupt Administration In History Abruptly Seals Court Records Of Agent Brian Terry’s Murder (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- Obama cover-up? Court records of border patrol agent murder sealed (examiner.com)
- Did The ATF Try To Cover Up Ties To The Murder Of A U.S. Border Patrol Agent? (businessinsider.com)
- Holder & obama are murderers! (t2ctwn.wordpress.com)
- Leaked Report: Mexican Drug Smugglers Who Killed Brian Terry Were Stalking Border Patrol With Fast and Furious Guns (nicedeb.wordpress.com)
- Fast, Furious and Lawless Obama Regime (dakotavoice.com)
- More Secrets by the most transparent administration ever (ricrx.wordpress.com)
- Obama’s Adminstration, DOJ and ATF Allowed 1800 Gun’s To Flow To Mexico (pobeptsworld.wordpress.com)
- Issa Subpoenas Attorney General Holder for ‘Fast and Furious’ Records (timesunion.com)
Washington’s Clumsy China Containment Policy
Although U.S. officials have insisted for years that they do not regard China’s rise to great-power status as a threatening development, Washington’s statements and actions increasingly belie those assurances. Any doubt on that point disappeared following President Obama’s November 17 speech in Canberra, Australia. In his address to the Australian parliament, Obama boldly asserted that “the United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.” Observers in Australia and throughout the region interpreted that comment as sending a message to China that the United States was not about to quietly relinquish its hegemony in East Asia and let the PRC become the leading power.
The Canberra speech was not the only measure that suggested that Washington was adopting a harder line toward Beijing on security issues. Just hours before his address to parliament, Obama announced that the United States would send military aircraft and as many as 2,500 Marines to northern Australia over the next few years to develop a training hub to assist allies and protect American interests throughout the region.
The next day, while attending an East Asian economic summit in Bali, the president went out of his way to emphasize the importance of the U.S. defense alliance with the Philippines and pledged to strengthen that relationship. His comment followed a blunt statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the ongoing dispute between China and several of its neighbors (including the Philippines) over territorial claims in the South China Sea. “Any nation with a claim has a right to exert it,” Clinton stated during a visit to Manila on November 16, “but they do not have a right to pursue it through intimidation or coercion.” She added that “the United States will always be in the corner of the Philippines and we will stand and fight with you.” Although the latter remark could be interpreted merely as a restatement of the rationale for the six-decade-old mutual-defense treaty, given the secretary’s comments about the South China Sea dispute Beijing could certainly view her statement as a specific warning regarding that issue.
Those moves, along with previous efforts to strengthen cooperative military ties with other traditional allies such as South Korea and Japan and one-time U.S. adversaries such as Vietnam, have all the earmarks of a rather unsubtle containment policy directed against China. It is a foolish strategy that will complicate and perhaps permanently damage the crucial U.S.-China relationship. Perhaps even worse, it is a containment strategy that is long on symbolism and short on substance, thereby managing to be simultaneously provocative and ineffectual.
Take the U.S. decision to send 2,500 Marines to Australia. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which such a small deployment would be militarily useful. If there is a security contingency somewhere in East Asia, it is likely to be decided by air and naval power, not a meager force of Marines. Yet, while militarily useless, such a deployment conveys a hostile message to Beijing, thereby managing to antagonize the Chinese.
A similar conclusion is warranted with regard to the Obama administration’s transparent effort to revitalize the nearly moribund alliance with the Philippines. That chronically misgoverned, third-rate military power would hardly make a good security partner in any crisis. Yet by siding with a country that is deeply embroiled with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea, the United States once again appears to be going out of its way to antagonize Beijing.
That would be an ill-advised approach under the best of circumstances. But to embrace a containment policy—especially one that is primarily bluster and symbolism—when Washington badly needs China to continue funding the seemingly endless flow of U.S. Treasury debt verges on being dim-witted. It’s never a good idea to anger one’s banker. And one can assume that Beijing is watching U.S. actions, not just the pro-forma assurances that the United States wants good relations and does not regard China as a threat. Those assurances ring increasingly hollow, and one can assume that Chinese leaders will react accordingly. That does not bode well for the future of the U.S.-China relationship.
- The Coalition Against Chinese Hegemony (mb50.wordpress.com)
- U.S.-China tensions risk spilling over into Asia summit (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Flash-point: China issues warning to India on disputes in the South China Sea (theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com)
- Beijing naval drills to go ahead amid sovereignty row (chinapost.com.tw)
- China military condemns US-Australia pact (news.smh.com.au)
OPEC and Obama Team Up to Fight Major Energy Breakthrough
The world’s energy markets are being completely transformed.
The results of the changes will affect the global power structure, and America is going to be a major benefactor of it all.
If you believe we’re going to live in a utopia of solar panels and windmills, think the world is coming to an end because of carbon dioxide, or happen to be an Arab sheik that’s made a fortune off of America’s endless thirst for oil, you’re not going to like the change.
But if you want to invest in the future of American energy — and make some “evil” profits by helping accelerate the real American energy boom — then you’re going to like where things are headed…
Environmentalists on a Mission
Our helicopter touched down in the middle of a remote forest in the Western Canadian countryside.
The pilot asked, “How long you guys planning to be here?”
“Maybe four or five hours.”
He breathed a sigh of relief.
“That’s good?” we wondered.
“Yes. Last time some people wanted to come out here, I ended up sitting here for 14 hours. A bunch of college kids… they were looking for a rare bird, or a salamander — any kind of animal, really.”
“I take it they weren’t successful.”
“Nope. If they had found what they were looking for, none of what we flew over would be here right now.”
We were up in Northern Alberta, just outside Ft. McMurray. The pilot was talking about the flying he was hired to do for a group of environmentalists on a mission.
They were scouring the region for any reason to shut down all of the oil sands projects. Their last desperate hope was to find a cute, cuddly animal they could use to turn the public against more oil, lower gas prices, and an ample supply of conflict-free energy…
They didn’t find anything, and the boom followed.
As Nick Hodge shows you in this video, the town is absolutely booming. Waitresses are making $20 an hour; mobile homes are on the market for $600,000 — and getting multiple bids!
It’s been building for five years. And there are still new projects being built, expanded, and discovered.
More importantly, it’s just part of what’s changing the future of American energy.
America’s Real Energy Future
America’s energy future will be much different than what most people picture today.
Al-Falih, President and CEO of state-owned Saudi Aramco, summed up what’s really going on in America’s energy industry best when he said earlier this week:
The confluence of four new realities — increasing supplies of oil and gas, the failure of alternatives to gain traction, the inability of economies to foot the bill for expensive energy agendas, and shifting environmental priorities — have turned the terms of the global energy dialogue upside down. Therefore, we must recast our discussion in light of actual conditions rather than wishful thinking.
He’s absolutely right.
We won’t be surrounded by solar panels and windmills. The cover has been blown off the scam, and the world is waking up to this fact fast.
But hopes for more energy independence aren’t dying as a result. They’re actually becoming more of a reality than they’ve been in decades.
The U.S. currently imports just 46% of its oil from foreign countries. That’s down from 60% a few years ago. On top of that, less than 20% of those imports come from outside the Western Hemisphere.
Great news, right?
It is for many who want more secure fuel supplies and (eventually) lower prices.
But it’s not good news for everyone. And some very powerful interests are fighting this change every step of the way.
Winning Fighting the Future
The few but powerful are fighting the transformation and breaking out all the old cronyist tools to do so: political influence, fear mongering, etc.
The biggest (and most ridiculous) example came last week when the Obama administration announced it was punting on a “controversial” pipeline.
The project, known as the Keystone XL Pipeline, is to stretch from the oil sands in Alberta down to the refineries on the Gulf Coast. It would also pick up oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota…
In all, the pipeline would add a steady flow of 435,000 barrels per day to the United States and create as many as 20,000 jobs to build it.
Sounds perfect. A slew of jobs and energy, all paid for without a single dime of government “investment.”
But there’s a problem.
Groups opposing the pipeline claim one of the nation’s largest and most important aquifers — the Ogallala Aquifer, which accounts for 78 percent of the water used by residents and industry and 83 percent of the state’s irrigation water — would be greatly harmed by a spill.
They claim a single spill from the proposed pipeline would endanger the Heartland’s water supply and well over half of the nation’s food supply.
Inside Climate News reports:
Even a fairly localized spill could cause serious problems. The Ogallala is already under threat from over-depletion, because people are pumping out groundwater faster than it can be replenished by rain and snow. The strain is apparent in northern Texas, where some fear another Dust Bowl as the water table continues to drop.
When TransCanada evaluated the risk of spills on the pipeline, it found that over the next 50 years there could be 11 spills, each releasing more than 50 barrels of oil. (A barrel holds 42 gallons.) But a recent research paper by John Stansbury, a professor of environmental and water resources engineering at the University of Nebraska places the risk at 91 such spills over 50 years.
Sounds ominous, I know.
We’ve got to stop a pipeline from going through this aquifer.
The risks don’t justify the rewards…
What they don’t tell you, however, is that the aquifer is already crisscrossed by pipelines (see map below.)
There are dozens of pipelines carrying oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, and more through the aquifer. And they’ve been there for decades.
It makes you wonder, is it really the aquifer they’re fighting?
Of course not. They’re fighting the oil.
And there are a lot of powerful interests on board…
Saudi Arabia probably has the biggest stake in preventing the Keystone XL from ever being built. And it’s only going to get worse.
In order to prevent the riots and upheaval that have swept through many of its neighboring nations, Saudi Arabia has lavished cash on its citizens through public works projects, services, and handouts to the tune of $130 billion.
The aggressive spending has pushed the oil-rich nation to the point at which it needs oil to trade above $88 a barrel just to break even.
But that break-even price is only going higher as its best customer is becoming less dependent…
The United States is now important less oil from Saudi Arabia than it has in ages.
The percentage of oil imports coming from Saudi Arabia have declined from 11.2% to 9.3% five years ago.
The successful completion of a rapid, cost-effective transport system for the massive amount of oil being pumped out of the ever-growing supplies in the Bakken and Canadian oil sands would only further reduce Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical stronghold in the energy industry.
So Long, Wishful Thinking… Hello, Growth and Prosperity
One of the things we like to do in Freedom & Capital is to look back from the future. We do this to put current events in perspective and in the context of a bigger picture.
That’s why we can see these current events from 20 years down the line as the point when the energy world really changed.
Old entrenched interests fought against change and advancement…
Governments and their cronies tried to prevent new energy sources from coming online…
Environmentalists tried anything they could to advance their vision of what the future will look like, regardless of how inefficient and costly…
In the end, simple economics won out.
The old energy companies responded to demand and high prices and they pushed forward, developing everything they could.
And investors who looked beyond the week-to-week madness of the markets, politics, and other events made absolute fortunes.
Editor, Wealth Daily
- Alberta’s Tar Sands: Not So Bad? (forbes.com)
- Ted Poe rips Obama administration for delaying Keystone XL pipeline decision (energyindependenceforstates.com)
Gulf drilling, economies remain sluggish
BY LAWRENCE J. MCQUILLAN
The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing recently on President Barack Obama‘s drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico one year after the ban was lifted. The results are not pretty if you’re concerned about rising energy prices and lost jobs.
Though drilling in the Gulf is allowed again, slow permitting and burdensome regulations are hindering operations. Activity has yet to rebound to pre-moratorium rates. A study by Quest Offshore Resources shows the number of active rigs is 37 percent less than before the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Before Obama imposed the deepwater drilling moratorium, there were 33 floating rigs with 29 drilling wells operating in the Gulf. The number of operating rigs was expected to reach 44 by mid-2012. Analysts now hope that activity will just climb back to pre-ban levels by mid-2012.
A robust oil sector is vital to Gulf economies and the country. Expediting drilling permits, which have tumbled by 59 percent, and facilitating the full return of oil operations will prevent the loss of thousands of jobs, boost economic growth and yield substantial government revenue.
During the moratorium, many companies shifted work to other offshore regions. Eleven rigs left the Gulf. Seven went to African countries; three to South America, and one to Vietnam. This translated to 60 wells lost and 11,500 jobs destroyed.
And the rigs that remained in the Gulf are not operating at capacity. The use rate of offshore drilling units in Gulf waters is 54 percent. Worldwide use rates average 80 percent. In Europe, rates regularly approach 90 percent.
Gulf economies are clearly underperforming, and there is no urgency from the Obama administration to change this alarming course. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar postponed auctions of leases scheduled for the remainder of 2011 until next year, potentially making 2011 the first year since 1965 that the federal government didn’t sell a lease in the Gulf.
The drop in Gulf drilling also impacts federal revenues. The economic forecasting company IHS Global Insight estimates that royalties, lease bids and rent payments amounted to more than $6 billion in 2009. Federal, state and local taxes related to Gulf offshore oil and natural gas operations totaled $13 billion. If drilling continues to stagnate, so will these revenues.
The ripple effect from a hurting oil industry extends to other sectors of the economy and beyond the Gulf area. Bruce Craul with Legendary Hospitality explained at the oversight hearing how the moratorium and sluggish recovery have damaged his industry. Many visitors to Florida are traveling on energy-related business. Without a thriving oil industry, they don’t come.
Inland states are bleeding jobs too. In Oklahoma, the Consumer Energy Alliance estimates slow government permitting is costing about 20,000 jobs in various industries.
The crisis is now. If the Gulf region’s enormous potential is to be realized, government obstacles to recovery must be eliminated.
McQuillan is director of business and economic studies at the Pacific Research Institute (www.pacificresearch.org).
- Obama’s obligation to free up Gulf oil (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Offshore Vessel Operators Suffer As Gulf Oil Output Sags (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Collateral Damage: Lost Gulf Rigs from Obama Obstructionism (10 down, more to go?) (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Obama’s Interior Chokehold on America (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Family firm still struggling, 18 months after Gulf oil spill (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Is Mexican Gulf Energy Production Recovering? (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Push for permits in Gulf of Mexico (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Chevron Strikes Oil in Deepwater Gulf of Mexico (mb50.wordpress.com)
- C. G. Glasscock Drilling Company offshore mobile drilling platform “Mr. Gus II” (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Bernard L. Weinstein: US energy resources worth the investment (mb50.wordpress.com)
InterOil and Gunvor ink LNG supply deal
InterOil and Pacific LNG have inked an Head of Agreement with Gunvor of Singapore for supply of one million tonnes of LNG per year from the Gulf LNG Project Papua New Guinea.
InterOil and Pacific LNG said that they were working to complete the negotiation and finalise a binding sale and purchases agreement with Gunvor by second quarter of 2012.
The Gulf LNG Project in Papua New Guinea comprises the Elk and Antelope gas fields and the planned liquefaction and associated facilities in the Gulf Province of PNG to be developed by Liquid Niugini Gas Ltd., InterOil and Pacific LNG’s joint-venture project company.
- InterOil and Gunvor Sign Heads of Agreement for LNG Supply (prnewswire.com)
- InterOil, Pacific LNG sign supply deal with Noble Clean Fuels (mb50.wordpress.com)
- InterOil Seeks Strategic Partner for Papua New Guinea LNG Project (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Movers & Shakers: Friday’s biggest gaining and declining stocks (marketwatch.com)
- InterOil and Noble Sign Heads of Agreement on LNG Sale (prnewswire.com)
- Australia: UBS Says Woodside Faces LNG Delays (mb50.wordpress.com)
Have US policymakers (POTUS) gone crazy?
By: Justin Raimondo | Published: November 30, 2011
Is there a single region of the world where the United States government isn’t scheming to grab more control, more influence, and have more of a military presence?
In Pakistan, a memo has been unearthed from “President” Zardari to Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the joint chiefs of staff, proposing a coup d’etat in which the military and intelligence chiefs would be replaced – with US “political and military support” – in favour of individuals more compliant with the American agenda. Also in Pakistan: an outright attack by US and Afghan forces on a Pakistani military base, a “mistake” in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.
Is the United States government actively trying to destabilise Pakistan – in order to be able to pull off a “coup” and move in with US troops in support of “democracy”? Are we, in effect, at war with Pakistan? Sure seems like it.
In Iran, we’re running a terrorist operation that strikes at both military and civilian targets, and we’ve just announced a new round of sanctions. Not content with a campaign of economic strangulation, prominent US lawmakers and former top national security officials are harbouring, succouring, and defending a known organisation whose goal is “regime change” in Iran. Hardly a day goes by without a threat of military action emanating from Washington.
In Syria, we are supporting armed “protesters” whose goal is the overthrow of the Syrian government. In Libya, our proxies recently succeeded in doing the same. In Egypt, we are reprising our record of support for mobs demanding the ouster of the government – while in Bahrain, we take the side of the reigning king as angry mobs gather in the public square.
In Eastasia, we are intervening in a regional dispute, claiming to be a “resident Pacific power,” and scheming to make the South China Sea (of all places!) an American lake. The much-vaunted “Pacific pivot” has us setting up a new military base in Australia and sending 2,500 US troops to man it. Is this because China is planning to send the Peoples Liberation Army Down Under – or because the Americans are looking to expand the string of major military bases that allows them to project power (and impose their will) all over the globe? Of course it’s just a coincidence that, in tandem with our Asian offensive, we’re about to announce an agreement to base US warships in Singapore, right on China’s doorstep.
Our ambitions, however, are hardly limited to Eastasia. In Central Asia, aside from our decade-long campaign to subjugate Afghanistan, we’re spending tens of millions of US taxpayer dollars to prop up some of the most repressive regimes on earth. The idea is to encircle both Russia and China: toward this end we are courting the dictators of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, and haggling with the newly-elected government of Kyrgyzstan to retain our basing rights.
In Europe, we are intervening massively – via the Federal Reserve, this time – in order to shore up insolvent banks, support the Euro, and prop up the decadent welfare states of the EU. On a more militaristic note, via Nato we’re intervening – again! – in Kosovo, Serbia’s lost province, where rebellious Serbs are defying the gangster “government” in Pristina and defending their autonomy: naturally, we aim to crush them. Since the Obama administration has come into office, new bases have sprung up in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. And if the long reach of Uncle Sam into the very heart of Europe isn’t evident in the legal troubles of Julian Assange, then one is wearing blinders.
In Africa we are invading Somalia, sending the Marines to Uganda, and scheming with Kenya and Ethiopia to pacify great swathes of the continent. This is being done in the name of the “war on terrorism,” but in reality it is a response to Chinese economic penetration of the dark continent, which the US sees as a threat. A ring of new military bases is being set up in Yemen, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and the Seychelles from which to run our ongoing “drone war” against alleged “terrorist” outposts in Somalia and the Arabian peninsula. This is not to mention the “secret” bases reportedly operating in “Israel, Kuwait, the Philippines and many other places,” as Catherine Lutz points out in an excellent overview of what the late Chalmers Johnson called our “empire of bases.”
In South and Central America, the American military presence is rapidly expanding, with seven new bases in Colombia since 2008, two new naval bases in Panama – and those are just the ones we know about. What we don’t know is the extent of Washington’s covert operations south of the border, including supplying arms to Mexican drug cartels – a truly shocking scandal which is being steadfastly ignored by the openly pro-Obama “mainstream” media.
- Pakistan to protest NATO strike by skipping Afghan meeting (mercurynews.com)
- Pakistan border strike: For NATO and US, ‘sorry’ is the hardest word (video) (csmonitor.com)
- NATO Strike Can’t Lead to Breach With Enemy-Ally Pakistan: View (businessweek.com)
- After NATO strike, can US-Pakistan relations be patched up one more time? – Christian Science Monitor (csmonitor.com)
- US prepares to vacate Pakistan drone base (msnbc.msn.com)
- Taliban may have lured Nato forces to attack Pakistani outpost – US (guardian.co.uk)
- Good Reads: What really happened at the bombed out Pakistani military post? – Christian Science Monitor (csmonitor.com)
- China backs Pakistan over Nato attack (guardian.co.uk)
- Anonymously Explaining Pakistan Deaths (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Pakistan Denies Reports It Triggered NATO Strike – Voice of America (blog) (blogs.voanews.com)
Well Enhancer en route to Africa for region’s first LWI project
The Well Enhancer is making her African debut this winter to complete the region’s first ever Light Well Intervention (LWI) campaign offshore Equatorial Guinea.
The campaign will include another first for the Well Enhancer as she will be undertaking her deepest project to date at approximately 1,540 ft (470 m) water depth. The Well Enhancer’s current specification allows her to work in water depths of up to 1,970 ft (600 m).
The Well Enhancer’s arrival represents the emergence of the LWI market for a region which is experiencing rapid development.
The Well Enhancer’s strong track record and Well Ops UK’s reputation as a market leader in providing subsea well intervention services in the North Sea was key in obtaining the award for the African project. This is because Well Ops North Sea clients also own significant interests offshore West Africa and key personnel already understand the methodology and technology behind riserless well intervention operations.
The campaign will include remedial workscopes on six wells by way of a subsea tree replacement, production enhancement, well maintenance and well integrity work.
The Well Enhancer, launched in 2008, provides oil and gas production companies the opportunity to undertake a multitude of workscopes across a number of wells in various locations with the ability to transit between wells and gain access to a well via a Subsea Intervention Lubricator (SIL) well control package to intervene.
This method is both a much quicker and less expensive option to the conventional approach of using a drilling rig. Using LWI vessels also frees up drilling rigs to undertake the operator’s drilling, completion and well work-over projects.
The Well Enhancer, as with sister vessel Seawell, can also provide the operator with up to an 18-man saturation diving system rated for 984 ft (300 m). This offers clients increased options and flexibility when undertaking well work and can support light construction and inspection, repair and maintenance projects within the field, thus maximizing the capabilities of the assets.
The Coalition Against Chinese Hegemony
To resist Beijing’s maritime claims, Asean members will have to compromise and form a common front.
By PHILIP BOWRING
Ownership of the islands, seabed resources and navigation rights in the South China Sea is now very much on the international agenda. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is more united on this issue than it has been for about a decade, and the U.S. is turning more attention diplomatically and militarily to the Pacific. Nevertheless, sustaining the coalition of interests disputing China’s claimed hegemony over the sea will not be easy.
In fact, the wonder is that the Chinese leadership managed to get itself into this predicament by so clumsily arousing neighboring countries’ fears. Having suffered constant Chinese provocations over the preceding few years, Hanoi used its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2010 to first bring the issue of Chinese aggression to the table. Vietnam and the Philippines encouraged the U.S. to make clear its own interest in freedom of navigation and settlement of territorial disputes according to international principles.
At that point Beijing could have backed off and allowed the subject to fade from view. Instead, the People’s Liberation Army tried to punish Vietnam and the Philippines by harassing their exploration ships. Under the confident new administration of President Benigno Aquino, Manila responded with unprecedented vigor, carrying on exploration and offering new blocks for drilling.
Even this has not given China’s nationalists second thoughts. Recently the Global Times newspaper, owned by the People’s Daily, warned those who dispute Chinese claims to be “mentally prepared for the sound of cannons,” a threat that was noted around the world.
There is a sense that China’s provocations have been driven by the military, probably against the advice of its diplomats. If wiser heads among Beijing’s civilian leadership can reassert control, they will re-adopt Deng Xiaoping‘s maxim about keeping a low profile. If so, China will tone down its rhetoric and offer economic benefits on a larger scale to increase its neighbors’ dependence. It will likely quietly offer bilateral exploration deals which would divide the Asean claimants who are just starting to work together.
China has tried this before and nearly succeeded with Manila. Although the Philippines has relatively little reliance on China trade, its need for investment and pervasive corruption are vulnerabilities. The preoccupation of its armed forces—who are anyway poorly equipped—with insurgencies at home limits its ability to police the seas and protect exploration.
However, democracy can be a powerful force when it comes to protecting national interests. The Philippine public’s determination to stand up to bullying can be stronger than that of elites with business deals with China or autocracies reliant on good relations.
Vietnam’s nationalistic instincts are sure enough but Vietnam is still a relatively small and weak nation quite dependent on trade with China and likely to become more so. Good ties with India, Japan and Russia and emerging ones with the U.S. are an offset but China’s threats have already deterred some exploration on the continental shelf.
China’s efforts to divide the littoral states by pressing for bilateral negotiations have so far not met with success. But they could do so if Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei do not resolve their own differences. Significantly, China has refrained from overt threats against Malaysia even though oil and gas wells off Borneo are within its claimed territory. Malaysia in return has urged caution and cooperation with China. If Vietnam and the wider Malay world do not hang together they will surely be hung separately.
The difficulty lies in sacrificing some overlapping claims to form a united front. Vietnam claims all the Spratlys, the Philippines most but not all of them, Malaysia just a few, and Brunei only a couple of banks. Many of the islets, rocks and reefs lie outside their 200-mile exclusive economic zones and none qualifies for its own EEZ as none is capable of independently supporting permanent habitation.
Vietnam’s claim is as successor to its French colonial rulers as well as Vietnamese imperial assertions and the legacy of the Cham trading kingdom which flourished in central Vietnam until about 1500. The U.S. never claimed the Spratlys but an independent Philippines did so on the basis of proximity and as part of the Philippine archipelago. Malaysia and Brunei make claims based on rights to the continental shelf off Borneo.
Compromise among these four countries, who together own two-thirds of the coastline, is essential to prevent China from establishing hegemony over Southeast Asia. If the Asean nations cannot agree among themselves they could ask the International Court of Justice for a ruling, as did Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia in previous island disputes. The court could also be asked to adjudicate the EEZ boundaries. China would object, but that would only underline its unwillingness to agree to arbitration based on the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention.
In the end, only leadership from Indonesia, the largest Malay state and the cornerstone of Asean, can resolve this conflict. It can do more to refute China’s history-based claims, which ignore centuries of Malay trading across the sea a thousand years before the Chinese. And Jakarta can be the honest broker in finding a compromise to share resources that lie outside the EEZs of the claimants.
Vietnam, the Philippines and the other smaller states are never going to be able to remove China from the Spratly Islands that it now occupies, let alone the Paracels that it seized from Vietnam in 1974. But if they can maintain a common front with backing from Indonesia, they should be able to defend their interests in the South China Sea and their future sovereignty.
- Tensions rise on South China Sea dispute (mb50.wordpress.com)
- The disputes over the Spratly Islands (louisadheen.wordpress.com)
- Showdown in the South China Sea (gulfnews) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)
- China Rejects U.S. Bid for Sea Dispute Talks in East Asia Summit (International Business Times) (thuytinhvo.wordpress.com)