Neighbours worried China will copy Russia's annexation of Crimea, US aide says

Armed forces chief airs worries over regional defence spending and disputed islands

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 10:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 5:14pm


China's neighbours are worried that Russia's annexation of Crimea might serve as a precedent for Beijing, assistant secretary of state Daniel Russel told US Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.

But Russel voiced confidence that the global response to Russia's move would have a "chilling effect" that deters China from contemplating similar action.

Since Russia seized Crimea last month, US lawmakers and Asian diplomats have asked about the message sent to an increasingly confident China - especially with regard to Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing.

Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said that sanctions imposed on Russia were being watched by China.

"It is fair to say... that the extent of Chinese interdependence in economic terms with the United States and with its Asian neighbours is such that the prospect of the kind of incremental retaliatory steps that are gradually being imposed on Russia... should have a chilling effect on anyone in China who might contemplate the Crimea annexation as a model," Russel said.

Russel also pointed to effects on Beijing's neighbours, saying that "tolerance in the region for steps by China that appear to presage a more muscular approach has gone down" due to alarm over the Crimea annexation.

Republican critics of President Barack Obama have charged that US credibility is on the line over Crimea, which had longstanding links with Russia.

"I would venture to guess that the similarities for the Taiwanese [are] pretty striking," said Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican.

Meanwhile Indonesia's military said it is concerned that a rebalancing of power in the Asia-Pacific is driving an arms race and that increasing territorial disputes could trigger conflict.

"We are definitely worried because there is a trend happening in the region right now and that is an arms race, between Asean countries themselves and between major powers," Military commander Moeldoko said.

Moeldoko, who like many Indonesians is known by only one name, said it was important that what he called a rebalancing of power in Asia as well as efforts by the United States to step up its military presence in the region did not create "provocations".

He also said the Indonesian military was constantly assessing the risk to the country's oil- and gas-rich Natuna Islands close to an area of the South China Sea claimed by China but insisted that Jakarta remained neutral in the conflicting claims over sovereignty in the region.

Additional reporting by Reuters