South China Sea friction escalates Campbell: US and Philippines have discussed triggering of mutual defense treaty South China Sea friction escalates Campbell: US and Philippines have discussed triggering of mutual defense treaty

South China Sea friction escalates Campbell: US and Philippines have discussed triggering of mutual defense treaty

South China Sea friction escalates Campbell: US and Philippines have discussed triggering of mutual defense treaty

The situation in the Indo-Pacific region has not been peaceful recently. In the South China Sea, China and the Philippines have frequently been involved in sovereignty disputes. The most recent friction between the two countries occurred on the 17th, when two Philippine Navy inflatable boats were surrounded and rammed by several Chinese Coast Guard vessels near the Second Thomas Shoal (called Ren'ai Reef in China). According to the relevant video released by the Philippines, Chinese Coast Guard personnel threatened Philippine personnel with axes and long knives, resulting in eight Philippine Navy personnel being injured, one of whom lost his thumb.

Meanwhile, on cross-strait issues, the Beijing authorities announced new regulations on punishing "Taiwan independence" on the 21st, stipulating that the maximum penalty for "Taiwan independence diehards splitting the country and inciting secession" is death penalty; at the same time, the relevant crimes are not subject to the limitation of the legal retrospective period and can be "tried in absentia". It is generally believed that this new regulation by China is clearly an attempt to increase coercion against the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan.

In response, Taiwan's President Lai Ching-te said on Monday: "China has no power to sanction the Taiwanese people just because of the Taiwanese people's claims. China also has no power to prosecute the Taiwanese people across borders."

Campbell: Beijing is concerned about deepening ties between Russia and North Korea

This Monday, the New York-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) also held a seminar on the unstable situation in the Indo-Pacific region and the US policy in the region. US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and several scholars on China issues attended the seminar.

Campbell said at the meeting that security in the Indo-Pacific region is now facing increasingly huge regional challenges: "The scale of China's military expansion is unprecedented in peacetime, and such expansion is endangering the regional balance; North Korea continues to engage in provocative behavior; in addition, China's provocations in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, including the incident at the Second Thomas Shoal last week, friction with India, and behavior in the Taiwan Strait, may lead to the outbreak of conflict and thus severely damage the global economy."

Campbell said that as regional security risks increase, the core of the Biden administration's policy is to continue to strengthen cooperation with allies and jointly maintain the international order. At the same time, as conflicts occurring around the world tend to be interconnected, cooperation among allies in various regions has become crucial: "Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific arena are increasingly connected. China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran are strengthening their connections and security cooperation. In the Russian-Ukrainian war, the two countries that most assisted Russia in military reconstruction were China and North Korea. In return, Russia helped these countries strengthen their military capabilities."

At the same time, Campbell also talked about Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Pyongyang last week. Campbell believes that China should be anxious about the strengthening of the partnership between North Korea and Russia: "Although China and Russia have close interactions on the Ukraine issue and the two countries have a deep strategic partnership, there are still issues that cause tension between the two countries, such as sovereignty in the Arctic region, and some Central Asian countries that used to have close relations with Russia but are increasingly attracted by the economic benefits brought by China. And I think North Korea is also one of the tense issues. China should be worried that North Korea will be encouraged by Russia to take provocative actions, which will put Northeast Asia into crisis."

At the meeting, Campbell was asked whether the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty would be triggered if a Filipino citizen died in a confrontation with the Chinese Coast Guard as frictions between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea have been frequent. In this regard, although Campbell did not disclose specific details, he said that the United States and the Philippines have already had clear discussions on the relevant circumstances that would trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty.

Campbell said: "The Philippines is very careful on this issue. They don't want to get into a crisis situation with China, but want to have a dialogue with China. ... In this situation, both sides of the conflict will think that the other side is testing themselves, so the United States and China should feel that their determination is being tested. Therefore, the most important part now is to give clear support to the Philippines and to draw a very clear bottom line publicly and privately."

Scholars: Tensions in the Taiwan Strait may escalate in the next decade

At the seminar, participating scholars also discussed the possibility of war breaking out in the Taiwan Strait in the next decade, and whether the United States should reduce the resources invested in the Russia-Ukraine war and the Kazakhstan-Israel war and instead focus on the Taiwan Strait.

Bonny Lin, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank, pointed out that the possibility of a crisis between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in the next 10 years is higher than in the past 10 years: "The first reason is that China's military capabilities are constantly increasing, not only the People's Liberation Army, but also China's law enforcement units and coast guard. According to Xi Jinping's previous plan, he hopes that China will have the ability to launch a large-scale amphibious attack on Taiwan by 2027; the second factor is China's intentions and assessment of the situation in the Taiwan Strait. China's evaluation of Taiwan's new president Lai Ching-te is quite negative... Based on the comprehensive assessment of capabilities and intentions, we can expect China to escalate its coercion against Taiwan."

Regarding how the United States allocates military resources around the world, Lin Yang said that the Beijing authorities are closely following the situation of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Therefore, if the shortfall in U.S. aid to Ukraine leads to the defeat of the Kiev authorities, it may encourage China's ambition to use force against Taiwan: "China understands that the situation in Ukraine is different from that in Taiwan, but China still applies the Russian-Ukrainian war to the Taiwan Strait situation for learning. Therefore, if Ukraine loses, and loses quickly, I think it will affect how China evaluates that 'taking Taiwan is a very easy thing.'"

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