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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."
  • 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.

  • Jul 14 , 2017

    Despite the ruling of the South China Sea arbitration case, the Chinese continue to use the waters in Filipino territory however they please. The Duterte Administration downplayed the ruling in order to try and strengthen economic and strategic ties with China, and the Philippines are paying for it.

  • Jul 10 , 2017

    After his first year in office, Rodrigo Duterte has arrived at three key realizations: first, it has become increasingly clear he doesn’t have the power to unilaterally shape his country’s defense policy; second is how far he can distance the Philippines from the U.S.; and third, expanding cooperation between the Philippine military and the Pentagon will constrain Duterte’s outreach to China.

  • Jun 19 , 2017

    Philippine President’s Rodrigo Duterte’s trip to China and Russia in half month, try to reduce the Southeast Asian country’s historical dependence on the United States. All of a sudden, however, the imperative of counterterrorism has brought the Duterte administration and its old allies, particularly Washington, back together.

  • May 23 , 2017

    During his second official visit to Beijing in less than a year, Duterte held formal talks with both Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as Premiere Li Keqiang, where the two neighbors reaffirmed their commitment to look beyond their difference in the South China Sea and, instead, focus on areas of common concern. In exchange for these diplomatic and strategic concessions, Duterte expects China to serve as a key partner for his country’s national development. China’s new Silk Road initiative, in particular, has caught the Philippines’ attention.

  • Apr 27 , 2017

    The Philippines is often portrayed as an American ally on the verge of defecting to Eastern powers, with Duterte firmly overseeing this strategic shift. Yet, a closer look reveals that the tough-talking Filipino leader doesn’t have the requisite power to unilaterally reshape his country’s foreign policy, nor is he interested in fully severing ties with the Philippines’ century-old ally, America.

  • Apr 11 , 2017

    As the supposed engine of regional integration, and bedrock of East Asian security architecture, the ASEAN has sought, with limited success, to mediate maritime disputes and avoid conflict in the region. But beyond concerns over the gradual loss of so-called ‘ASEAN centrality,’ Southeast Asian countries are also worried about sudden and destructive escalation in Sino-American tensions in the area, especially if the Trump administration makes a step too far in order to project toughness.

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