South East Asia, Oceania

Joined: Nov 6 2006, 05:39 PM

Apr 29 2014, 11:20 AM #1

28 April 2014 Last updated at 10:58

Obama in Asia: Military deal tops Philippine agenda

US President Barack Obama says that a new US-Philippine military pact will promote stability in the region.

The deal, signed in Manila hours before Mr Obama touched down, allows a bigger US military presence in the country.

Mr Obama said the deal was not intended to contain China, with whom Manila is embroiled in a bitter territorial row.

But he backed Manila's move to seek UN arbitration over its maritime dispute with Beijing.

"Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure international rules and norms are respected and that includes in the area of international disputes," he said.

Shortly after arriving, Mr Obama held talks with President Benigno Aquino and was later to attend a state dinner. Manila is the final stop of the US president's four-nation Asia tour.

'Dialogue, not intimidation'

The 10-year military deal was signed by Philippine Defence Minister Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg on Monday morning.

This agreement is all about China, with whom the Philippine government has long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Until 1992 the headquarters of the US Seventh Fleet used to be in Subic Bay but this new agreement is not about permanent bases - rather there will be a greater presence of US forces as ships and aircraft rotate through the Philippines on specific deployments.

It is a powerful signal to Beijing both of the Philippines' desire to protect its interests - it is also looking to purchase a third Hamilton-Class cutter from the US coast guard - and of Washington's continued desire to step up its ability to project military force throughout the region.

President Barack Obama insists that Washington is not seeking to contain China. But the US pivot to Asia in the face of a more assertive China's modernisation of its armed forces means that there is inevitably a military dimension to their regional competition.

Under the agreement, the US will have better access to military bases, ports and airfields. US troops would rotate through these facilities and engage in joint training, officials said.

Mr Obama said the US was not planning to rebuild old bases or construct new ones under the security pact.

"We'll work together to build the Philippines' defence capabilities and work with other nations to promote regional stability such as in the South China Sea," he said.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario described it as "milestone in our shared history as enduring treaty allies".

"The EDCA [Enhanced Defence Co-operation Agreement] elevates to a higher plane of engagement our already robust defence alliance," he said.

However, the presence of foreign troops is a sensitive issue in the Philippines, a former US colony.

Anti-US activists who say the deal will not benefit the Philippines and harms its sovereignty were expected to protest during Mr Obama's visit.

The US used to have large bases in the Philippines but these were closed in the early 1990s. US troops have also been active in the southern Philippines, where al-Qaeda-linked militants are based.

In recent months, however, Washington and Manila have moved to strengthen ties again, as the Philippine relationship with China has deteriorated amid a more assertive stance from Beijing on its territorial claims.

Map of South China Sea

China claims a U-shaped swathe of the South China Sea - an area that includes territories that several South East Asia nations say belong to them.

In 2012, ships from China and the Philippines were involved in a long stand-off at the Scarborough Shoal.

More recently, the Philippines has accused China of blockading sailors stationed aboard a navy ship that has been grounded on a disputed reef for years.

Manila has initiated action against China on the territorial issue at the UN court, although China says it will not take part in the process.

"Both President Obama and I share the conviction that territorial and maritime disputes in the Asia-Pacific region should be settled peacefully based on international law," Mr Aquino said at a joint news conference.

The US president has already visited Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. He is not visiting Beijing on this occasion.


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Obama in the Philippines: ‘Our Goal Is Not to Contain China’

Emily Rauhala @emilyrauhala

April 28, 2014

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement took eight months to negotiate but mere days to anger Beijing, which sees U.S. involvement in East Asia as interference despite President Obama's insistence the goal is not to "contain" China

This is not about China. That has been the theme of Barack Obama’s four-nation trip to East Asia. Yet China loomed large over stops in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. And in the Philippines today, China was front and center.

On Monday morning, local time, the U.S. and the Philippines signed a 10-year pact that will give U.S. planes, warships and troops more access to the archipelagic nation. The U.S. will not re-establish a permanent base, but will rotate troops through. The deal, officially called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, took eight months of negotiation, and gives some substance to the Obama Administration’s “pivot” to Asia.

At a joint press conference in Manila, President Obama insisted the deal was not about thwarting China’s rise. “Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of international disputes,” he said.

His counterpart, President Benigno S. Aquino III, said the agreement was about deepening U.S.-Philippine ties and would promote “regional peace and security.”

China begs to differ. Locked in territorial disputes with the Philippines, Japan and others, Beijing sees U.S. involvement in East Asia as unwelcome interference. In an editorial published less than an hour after the agreement was officially signed, state-backed newswire Xinhua blasted the pact, calling the Philippines a “troublemaker in the South China Sea” and warning the U.S. that its plans may backfire.

“Given that the Philippines is at a bitter territorial row with China, the move is particularly disturbing as it may embolden Manila in dealing with Beijing,” it read.

The agreement is no less contentious within the Philippines. The country has a long and complicated history with the U.S., particularly the U.S. armed forces. The Philippines spent 300 years as a Spanish colony before being “liberated” by the U.S. in 1898. What followed was a brutal Philippine-American War and the U.S. colonization of the islands. When the Philippines became independent in 1945, the Americans left behind massive military bases — and with them a well-documented legacy of rights abuses and environmental problems.

More than a decade of antimilitary activism led to the closure, in 1992, of U.S. bases. But the Americans never fully withdrew. U.S. forces have maintained a small but continuous presence, conducting training exercises and, since 2002, antiterrorist operations as part of the so-called global war on terror. For a dedicated block of activists, the fact that the U.S. military still has boots on the ground is tantamount to neocolonialism. Some staged protests outside the U.S. embassy in Manila last week.

“I think people are angry that this was negotiated behind close doors and made public after it was signed,” says Alex Magno, former professor of political of science at the University of the Philippines, now a political commenter for the Philippine Star. “It is being sold to the public as an enhancement of our national defense [but] Obama tries to tone down that expectation by saying that it is not America’s role to counter China.”

The deal is also under fire from Filipino politicians who see it as a hasty and counterproductive turnaround. In an email reply to questions from TIME, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago blasted the government for signing the pact without input from the Senate and questioned the logic behind the agreement. “The U.S. should not continue to treat [the Philippines] as a satellite state, while aiming to remain on good terms with China,” she wrote. “America cannot have it both ways.”

Since his election in 2010, President Aquino has alternated between reassuring and castigating Beijing. In a 2012 interview, Aquino told TIME that U.S. military aid “helps us address our needs without giving [our neighbors] any sense of added nervousness.” (One of the unnamed neighbors, of course, was China.) He has since become more direct: in a February interview with the New York Times, Aquino compared his country’s plight with the West’s failure to protect Czechoslovakia in 1938 when Hitler demanded land. “At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough?’” he asked.

At the press conference in Manila on Monday, Aquino once again spoke softly, noting, among other things, that his country does not have a single fighter jet. But he said it with President Obama at his side — a fact that will not be lost on Beijing.


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"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro

Joined: Nov 6 2006, 05:39 PM

Aug 11 2014, 08:07 AM #2

East of Suez

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The phrase East of Suez is used in British military and political discussions in reference to imperial interests beyond the European theatre, and east of Suez Canal—most notably its military base in Singapore—and may or may not include the Middle East.[1] The phrase was popularized by Rudyard Kipling in his 1890 poem Mandalay.[2] It later became a popular song when a tune was added by Oley Speaks in 1907.[3]

    Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
    Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;

Background and status

19th century

The opening of Suez Canal in 1869 provided the shortest ocean link from Britain to the Far East by making the long journey around the Cape of Good Hope unnecessary.[4] With the 1882 invasion and occupation of Egypt, the United Kingdom took de facto control of the country as well as joint control along with the French over the Suez Canal – which had been described as the “jugular vein of the Empire”.[5] The canal and the imperial outposts east of the canal were of genuine strategic value to the British Empire[6] and its military infrastructure drew on sea lanes of communication through the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal, alternatively round the Cape of Good Hope to India, and on to East Asia (Brunei, Burma, British Malaya, Hong Kong, North Borneo, Sarawak) and Australia.
20th century

The fall of Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 damaged the empire as it lost a strategic imperial outpost and laid the seeds of the collapse of British imperial power, post World War II.[7] Then, with Indian independence in 1947, there was a gradual draw-down of the military presence “East of Suez”, marking the collapse of the empire.[8][9] The Suez Crisis—a diplomatic and military confrontation in November 1956, caused by the nationalization of Suez Canal by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser—ended in Egypt taking full control of the canal. The economic and military influence of Britain over the region was marginalized, limiting its control over the bases in the Middle East and South East Asia.[9][10][11] In January 1968, a few weeks after the devaluation of the pound,[1][8] Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his Defence Secretary, Denis Healey, announced that British troops would be withdrawn in 1971 from major military bases in South East Asia, "east of Aden", primarily in Malaysia and Singapore[7][12][13] as well as the Persian Gulf and Maldives[14] (both of which are sited in the Indian Ocean), which is when the phrase "East of Suez" entered the vernacular. In June 1970, Edward Heath's government came to power and retained a small political and military commitment to South East Asia through the Five Power Defence Arrangements.[14] Prior to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, Britain based several units in Hong Kong.
21st century

In April 2013 the British think tank Royal United Services Institute published a report which stated that Britain is in the process of a strategic shift back to an east of Suez position. The report stated that a permanent military presence was being established at Al-Minhad in the United Arab Emirates, by the British Royal Air Force, as well as the continuing build of British troops in the Gulf states as Britain begins to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Furthermore, the report went to explain that as Britain begins to relocate its troops from Germany by 2020, the British base in the UAE could become their permanent home. The think tank went on to explain that as the United States begins to concentrate more on the Asia-Pacific region in its attempt to balance China's rise as a world power, a strategic vacuum would emerge in the Gulf region which was incrementally being filled by Britain. This shift of troops to the UAE coincided with establishment of the Royal Navy's UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) in Bahrain. In December, the UK's Chief of Defence Staff Gen Sir David Richards said: "After Afghanistan, the Gulf will become our main military effort.".[15] Overall this would signal a reversal of Britain's East of Suez withdrawal.[16]

Britain maintains the School of Jungle Warfare in Brunei, and a battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles in addition to some aircraft of the Army Air Corps, as part of the British Military Garrison Brunei.[17] There is also a small British military presence remaining on Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory, and a refuelling station (manned by Royal Navy personnel) in the former HMNB Singapore in Singapore.[18]

The Five Power Defence Agreements (FPDA) came into force in 1971 after the period of Confrontation initiated by Indonesia (1963-66) and the announcement in January 1968 by Britain’s Labour Government that it would withdraw its military forces from ‘east of Suez’ by 1971. The FPDA was initially conceived as a transitional agreement to provide for the defence of Malaysia and Singapore until these new states could fend for themselves.1 Under the terms of its founding communiqué (16 April 1971), Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom (UK), Malaysia and Singapore pledged:

in relation to the external defence of Malaysia and Singapore, that in the event of any form of armed attack externally organised or supported, or the threat of such attack against Malaysia or Singapore, their Governments would immediately consult together for the purpose of deciding what measures should be taken or separately in relation to such an attack or threat.2


The British Far East Command was terminated on 31 October 1971 and on the following day the FPDA came into force, replacing the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement. On 1 December 1971, Malaysia and Singapore separately exchanged bilateral notes with the other three FPDA partners.15 At the time FPDA was stood up, there were approximately 3,300 Australians, 2,550 British and 1,150 New Zealand forces stationed in Malaysia and Singapore.16

The external powers contributed one infantry battalion each. The UK also contributed six frigates, four maritime reconnaissance aircraft and one squadron of helicopters. Australia provided two squadrons of Mirage fighters and one surface combatant. Britain and Australia also deployed one submarine each on rotation. New Zealand’s contribution consisted of one frigate, transport aircraft and personnel for HQ IADS.17


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29 April 2013 Last updated at 07:59

'East of Suez': Are UK forces returning?
By Frank Gardner BBC security correspondent

Is Britain quietly re-establishing a permanent, strategic military presence in the Middle East, reversing a 1960s decision to withdraw UK forces from "east of Suez"?

It is a question posed and addressed in a detailed report published on Monday by Whitehall think tank the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi).

"It may not yet be declared government policy," says Rusi director Prof Michael Clarke, in the foreword. "But the UK appears to be approaching a decision point where a significant strategic reorientation of its defence and security towards the Gulf is both plausible and logical."

In practice this has already begun.

Rights record

Beneath the cloudless desert skies of the United Arab Emirates, a squadron of RAF Tornado jets is currently based at Al-Minhad, a discreet and well-guarded airbase south of Dubai.

Last November, I watched UK Prime Minister David Cameron fly in here to inspect a squadron of RAF Typhoons on exercise, accompanied by his Emirati hosts.

Since then, millions of pounds have been spent by the UAE on upgrading the base which will soon serve as a vital staging post for the withdrawal of British combat forces and their equipment from Afghanistan.

UK Chief of Defence Staff Gen Sir David Richards speaking in December

In Bahrain, at another military base well out of the public eye and set apart from that country's simmering unrest, Royal Navy personnel man the naval HQ known as the UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC), directing Britain's minesweepers and frigates around the Gulf, in co-ordination with the far larger US Navy 5th Fleet headquarters.

In Saudi Arabia, where western military forces are no longer based, pilots on secondment from the RAF are providing continuity training on Typhoon jets for the Saudi Royal Air Force, part of a massive UK-Saudi defence deal.

In Oman, which in 2001 hosted the largest British overseas military exercise in recent history, the defence relationship is so close that a British two-star Major General is stationed permanently in the capital Muscat, to oversee the relationship.

In Qatar, the first course of a British-run staff college is due to begin this September and Kuwait has just chosen the UK to help run its own equivalent of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

Much of this is the work of Lt Gen Simon Mayall, Britain's defence senior adviser to the Middle East, appointed in 2011.

For Britain, the strategic rationale behind all this goes way beyond defence sales, itself a controversial issue given the highly questionable human rights records of some of the countries concerned. It comes as three Britons have been found guilty of drug offences in the UAE. A human rights group says they were tortured.

In December, the UK's Chief of Defence Staff Gen Sir David Richards said: "After Afghanistan, the Gulf will become our main military effort."

The idea is to pre-position forces and equipment in the Gulf before they are needed, while simultaneously showing support for countries considered allies.

For Arab Gulf governments, unnerved both by the Arab Spring upheavals of 2011 and by Iran's growing regional ambitions, Britain's renewed military commitment, however small, offers some reassurance at a time when the Pentagon is focusing increasingly on the Pacific.

For David Cameron and his ministers - who Arab leaders believe have paid a lot more attention to the Gulf than the previous UK government - increased defence ties are a logical extension of a historic partnership the prime minister is keen to build on.

The way some see it, Britain is deep in debt while certain Gulf states have astronomical amounts of excess funds.

To them it makes sense to tap into this relationship by providing bases, training and even, as in the case of the UAE, joint development projects in defence and aerospace.
Continue reading the main story

Rusi report

"We are already committed to the Gulf," said a senior British officer who asked not to be named. "But we are just not doing it very well.

"There are 160,000 British citizens living there so if there is a crisis we will be involved, so we need to be better positioned to mitigate the threat."

But how much of a departure is this Gulf defence policy really?

Not so much, says the Rusi study published this week, arguing it is really more of a stepping up in gear of something that was already there.

"With regard to Arabia and the Gulf, the formal withdrawal from major bases east of Suez did not signal the end of British military involvement there - far from it," the report says.

Their paper argues that "it is of considerable economic benefit to the UK to be the leading European - and indeed, Western - player in the Gulf".

But it also warns of unintended consequences, of the risks of getting drawn into conflicts not of our making in a volatile part of the world, including becoming embroiled in the sectarian Sunni-Shia friction that is troubling Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province.

There is also the risk that, somewhere down the line, there will come a sharp difference in policy and, in a worst-case scenario, that the UK may even be prevented by host governments from using the very bases and agreements in which it is currently investing so much.


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"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance." Leonard Schapiro