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Commentaries by Richard Javad Heydarian

Richard Javad Heydarian

author of "Asia's New Battlefield: US, China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific"

Richard Javad Heydarian, a Philippine-based academic, is the author of "Asia's New Battlefield: US, China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific."
  • Mar 02 , 2018

    Over the past year, the relatively obscure Benham Rise, a plateau located in the Philippine Sea, has progressively become a main point of contention between Manila and Beijing. Despite his best efforts, Duterte has struggled to convince the Philippine public to accommodate China’s perceived encroachment into Philippine waters.

  • Feb 02 , 2018

    In recent weeks, Washington has stepped up its efforts to check Chinese maritime ambitions in the South China Sea. The Pentagon has stepped up its Freedom of Navigation Operations, while deploying Defense Secretary James Mattis to key Southeast Asian partners. With China emerging as America’s top national security concern, there are growing signs that the Trump administration’s South China Sea policy is finally taking shape.

  • Jan 11 , 2018

    ASEAN has ably brought together former rivals and among the world’s most (ideologically and socio-economically) diverse nations under a single roof. Yet, with the rise of China and the demise of the old American-led order, the ASEAN is facing an existential moment, which may require strategic soul-searching and major institutional reforms.

  • Dec 22 , 2017

    This year saw the emergence of two competing narratives vis-à-vis the territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea. The result is an even more combustible geopolitical landscape, where status quo power meets revisionist power rather than commonly accepted rules taming misplaced ambition.

  • Dec 05 , 2017

    The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) wrapped up the 50th anniversary of its founding by finalizing a series of landmark agreements. Among them was the much-anticipated framework of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, which has been more than two decades in the making. Yet, upon closer examination, the diplomatic jubilation over the trajectory of COC negotiations rings hollow.

  • Nov 01 , 2017

    After five months of intense firefights between government troops and Islamic State (IS)-affiliated militants, the Battle of Marawi is now effectively over. Yet, the specter of terror in Mindanao is far from over. The Philippines may have managed to contain, at least for the meantime, the prospect of an IS stronghold in its backyard, but religiously inspired extremism and violence will continue to haunt Mindanao for the foreseeable future.

  • Oct 17 , 2017

    One of the biggest geopolitical shocks of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency is the dramatic realignment in strategic relations among Southeast Asian claimant states, particularly between the Philippines and Vietnam. What looked like a promising alliance-in-the-making has suddenly turned into low-intensity bilateral tensions, with the two protagonists openly clashing over how to best deal with the China threat in the South China Sea.

  • Sep 27 , 2017

    For years, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has come under fire for its supposed inefficacy and muted response to major flashpoints in its own backyard. Yet, the rekindled tension on the Korean Peninsula, which is threatening regional security across the Asia-Pacific region, has forced the regional body to take a tougher stance. ASEAN is in a unique position to facilitate the return of conflicting parties to the negotiating table.

  • Aug 22 , 2017

    Crucially, the ASEAN meeting underscored the “importance of non-militarization and self-restraint” for both claimant states as well as “all other states.” The ASEAN communiqué effectively echoed China’s line, since Beijing has opposed the Philippines’ arbitration award, shunned a “legally binding” COC, underplayed its reclamation activities in disputed waters, and called upon external powers such as the U.S. to stay out of the conflict.

  • Aug 09 , 2017

    China claims sovereignty over almost the entirety of the South China Sea, while consistently rejecting The Hague ruling. Thus, the only way for a JDA to push through is if Duterte managed to amend the Philippine constitution, largely ignore his country’s arbitration award victory, and overcome deep-seated public antipathy towards resource-sharing agreements with China. This will be an uphill battle with a lot of potential hiccups along the way.

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