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NEWS-Spratlys Seen as SE Asia's 'No
- Subject: NEWS-Spratlys Seen as SE Asia's 'No
- From: Rangoonp@xxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 13 May 1999 21:51:00
Subject: NEWS-Spratlys Seen as SE Asia's 'No.1 Flashpoint'
Spratlys Seen as SE Asia's 'No.1 Flashpoint'
MANILA, May 13 (Reuters) - The Spratly Islands row is
Southeast Asia's most
serious security threat and a U.S. presence is crucial to
contain any Chinese
ambitions in the disputed area, defence experts said on
"The common consensus...is that (the South China Sea
dispute) remains the
No.1 flashpoint in our part of the world," former
Philippine defence secretary
Renato de Villa told reporters after chairing a meeting
of former Southeast
Asian defence and military leaders in Manila.
The Spratlys are a cluster of isles, reefs and rocky
outcrops in the South
China Sea claimed wholly or in part by China, the
Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. The islands straddle vital
sea lanes and are
thought to be potentially rich in oil.
Tension flared in the area last year after Manila accused
Beijing of building a
military garrison on Mischief Reef, which the Philippines
claims. Beijing says
the facilities are shelters for Chinese fishermen.
The meeting was attended by former defence and military
Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and
De Villa said he had recommended Philippine policy makers
Spratlys dispute with the United Nations.
"It seems (that) with respect to security problems... the
only way you get
action is if you air the problem before the world and let
the world act on it,"
de Villa said.
British security expert Eric Moriss said he believed
China's actions in
Mischief Reef were aimed at gauging the reaction of the
United States, a
traditional military ally of the Philippines.
"The victim is the Philippines, perhaps the target is
relations," Moriss, head of a London-based consultancy
firm, told Reuters.
Moriss attended a separate meeting among defence analysts
relevance of modern warfare to the conventional armies of
the Association of
South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which groups Malaysia,
Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos,
Moriss said one option for ASEAN countries concerned with
the South China
Sea dispute was to deal with China as a collective group
while seeking the
support of outside powers like the United States, Japan
and the European
"(ASEAN) needs to get (them) to recognise that it's not
in their interest to see
that the Chinese dominate the South China Sea," Moriss
"The United States has to demonstrate to China that it
regards the South
China Sea as a vitally important sea...and that there is
a clear presence of
American national interests in keeping the South China
Sea free and open,"
Former Southeast Asian defence and military leaders
meeting in Manila also
said North Korea's capability to launch missiles was a