US Opinion and Commentary

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Is a Rebuked China Taking a Timeout?

Posted July 27th, 2016 at 11:22 am (UTC-5)
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The deeper problem underlying the South China Sea dispute is the increasingly assertive nationalism of Chinese President Xi Jinping. But here, too, the Chinese appear to have taken a step back from the public anti-U.S. agitation that immediately followed the ruling.

Reversing China’s South China Sea Grab

Posted July 26th, 2016 at 12:45 pm (UTC-5)
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[A]ll U.S. visas for students from China to be revoked prior to the start of the 2016-17 academic year…[s]hould the PRC not demilitarize the South China Sea by Jan. 20, 2017…revocation of all Chinese EB-5 visas, tourist visas and the resultant Green Cards dating back to the law’s inception…

Bob Kerrey and the ‘American Tragedy’ of Vietnam

Posted June 20th, 2016 at 10:51 am (UTC-5)
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Even today, Americans argue over the Vietnam War….This sad history returns because of Bob Kerrey’s appointment as chairman of the American-sponsored Fulbright University Vietnam, the country’s first private university. That appointment has also prompted the Vietnamese to debate how former enemies can forgive and reconcile.

No Shangri-La in the South China Sea

Posted June 2nd, 2016 at 5:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Shangri-La is defined as an imaginary paradise, exotic utopia, a faraway haven of tranquility.
Utopia and tranquility are perhaps the furthest thing from the minds of Asia-Pacific defense ministers when they get together this weekend in Singapore for the 15th Shangri-La Dialogue security summit.
Topping their agenda: what to do about China’s claim to 3.5 million square kilometers of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also claim parts of that area. China is building artificial islands it says are for navigation, scientific and emergency services, with “limited defense facilities,” according to China’s Ambassador to the U.S. The issue is expected to be adjudicated soon by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.
No matter how the court rules, the United States and other Pacific Rim nations will have to deal with China’s likely refusal to accept a ruling not in its favor and the security issues that will follow.

Moving On in Vietnam, but Remembering Its Lessons

Posted May 24th, 2016 at 11:58 am (UTC-5)
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Looking to the future, we know that mutual interests…will drive our partnership with Vietnam. But it is strengthened, as well, by the natural affinities between our societies. These include family ties, a tendency toward optimism, a fierce desire for freedom and independence and a hard-earned appreciation that peace is far, far preferable to war.

Vietnam and the Obama Legacy of Engagement

Posted May 24th, 2016 at 11:01 am (UTC-5)
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By Barbara Slavin President Barack Obama’s announcement Monday that the United States is lifting practically all restrictions on the provision of weapons to Vietnam caps a remarkable turnabout in relations between the two former adversaries. Four decades after U.S. forces retreated in defeat from a bloody and ill-considered war, the United States is now the […]

The New Deal With Vietnam

Posted May 23rd, 2016 at 6:57 pm (UTC-5)
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Adorned by pastel colored flowers and framed by a red curtain, the golden statue of Ho Chi Mihn seemed to dwarf everything else in the room, including the high level meeting between Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary and the President of the United States.
With that as a backdrop, Barack Obama came to Vietnam to “remove a lingering vestige of the Cold War:” the embargo on U.S. arms sales to Vietnam.
Obama made the point that the lifting of the arms embargo underscores the U.S. commitment to “strong defense ties with Vietnam and this region for the long term…united in our support for a regional order in the South China Sea.”
Without naming China specifically, Obama gave fair warning to Beijing that the U.S. will continue to “fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and support the right of all countries to do the same.”
Critics — including fellow Democrat Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California — say by lifting the arms embargo, Obama gave away a negotiation lever to move Vietnam to respect human rights. Obama said each transaction will be scrutinized on its own merits and the issue of human rights will continue to be raised.
Everything the U.S. does with Vietnam will be seen through the prism of a long war lost. This trip to Hanoi— and later this week to Hiroshima — reminds us that there are lots of blips along the long arc of time.

Obama’s Triangulation in Vietnam

Posted May 20th, 2016 at 5:21 pm (UTC-5)
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Who would have thought that the United States would consider lifting an arms embargo on Vietnam after fighting a losing war there. And it’s under consideration because Vietnam is concerned about encroachment by a fellow communist country, China, which helped arm the victorious North Vietnamese against the U.S.
Monday’s visit by President Barack Obama marks the third such trip by an American president since diplomatic relations were re-established in 1995.
Weighing heavily on Obama against lifting the 41-year arms embargo is Vietnam’s human rights record. One prominent political prisoner was released Friday. But Vietnam is said to detain the most political prisoners in Southeast Asia. Media is repressed and public protest is subject to crackdown.
Vietnam and the U.S. have a common interest in reversing China’s provocative behavior in the South China Sea. Both countries have common interest in developing stronger trade and cultural ties. Where does human rights fit into the equation?

Reading the U.S.-China Tea Leaves

Posted May 12th, 2016 at 5:22 pm (UTC-5)
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President Barack Obama has an opportunity to take several steps toward his oft-anticipated and oft-postponed Asia pivot later this month. A visit to Vietnam before attending the G7 summit in Japan puts Asia squarely on the agenda.
And when Asia is on the agenda, China is at the center. From an economic engine to a military superpower, China impacts nearly everything that happens in Asia.
As for how that interests the U.S., Defense Secretary Ash Carter told graduating cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy that managing historic change the Asia-Pacific “will be in your lifetimes the single region of the world of most consequence for America. It’s where more than half of humankind lives, half the global economy, ad that’s only increasing.”
Last month, Carter gave witness to the importance of the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific when he toured the USS John C. Stennis, operating in the South China Sea.
It all has experts reading the Chinese tea leaves.

Great Power Confrontation in the South China Sea

Posted May 5th, 2016 at 4:08 pm (UTC-5)
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The US and Russia are not the only non-South China Sea states believing they have an interest in that contested body of water. India and, more recently, Japan have also made their presence felt, sending ships through what they consider to be a part of the global commons.

South China Sea: Bracing for Beijing’s Next Move

Posted April 28th, 2016 at 8:01 am (UTC-5)
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The United States should continue this trend by serving notice to the Chinese, privately at first, then publicly, that unless they can help in reducing tensions in the region…they will leave U.S. leaders with no choice but to reinforce their alliance capabilities. Then, the United States should do exactly that.

American Needs More Than Symbolic Gestures in the South China Sea

Posted April 12th, 2016 at 4:14 pm (UTC-5)
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It is also time for the US to move beyond symbolic gestures and launch a robust “freedom of the seas campaign”. It should increase the pace and scope of the Freedom of Navigation programme to challenge China’s maritime claims, as well as the number of sailing days that US warships spend in the South China Sea.

Does China Need More Friends in Asia?

Posted March 21st, 2016 at 12:46 pm (UTC-5)
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There could come a threshold beyond which the intersection of allied doubts and growing Chinese heft could compel China’s neighbors to “choose” China over the United States as their most consequential long-term partner—less out of strategic preference than of perceived imperatives.

The U.S. Is Heading Toward a Dangerous Showdown with China

Posted March 17th, 2016 at 12:04 pm (UTC-5)
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What makes this dispute so explosive is that it pits an American president who needs to affirm his credibility as a strong leader against a risk-taking Chinese president who has shown disregard for U.S. military power and who faces potent political enemies at home.

China’s Self-Defeating Provocations in the South China Sea

Posted March 3rd, 2016 at 11:59 am (UTC-5)
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By its small-scale tactical military deployments on indefensible islands in the South China Sea, China is antagonizing all the other littoral countries, which are … turning to the United States and Japan … to increase military cooperation and to request additional security assistance

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