• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 11:13am

Obama warns against ‘aggression’ in South China Sea during key address

Unchecked aggression, such as in the South China Sea, could draw in our military, Obama says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 10:59pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 4:20pm

President Barack Obama declared yesterday that the US remains the world's most indispensable nation, even after a "long season of war", but argued for restraint before embarking on more military adventures.

Obama's speech signalled a concerted effort by the White House to push back against critics who contend that the president's approach to global problems has been too cautious and has emboldened adversaries in Syria, Russia and China.

In a wide-ranging speech on foreign policy to US military cadets at West Point, Obama said that the United States should shun isolationism and that its military must be prepared for crises. "Regional aggression that goes unchecked - whether it's southern Ukraine, or the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world - will ultimately impact our allies, and could draw in our military," Obama said.

American influence is always stronger when we lead by example

But he emphasised caution on any decision to use force and said: "American influence is always stronger when we lead by example.

"It's a lot harder to call on China to resolve its maritime disputes under the Law of the Sea Convention when the United States Senate has refused to ratify it - despite the repeated insistence of our top military leaders that the treaty advances our national security.

"That's not leadership; that's retreat. That's not strength; that's weakness," Obama said.

Senators of the rival Republican Party have refused to ratify the treaty, saying that the UN convention would override US sovereignty.

Even as the US emerges from the two wars that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks, Obama said terrorism remained the most direct threat to American security. But he argued that as the threat has shifted from a centralised al-Qaeda to an array of affiliates, the American response must change too.

Rather than launching large-scale military efforts, Obama called for partnering with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.

That effort includes a new US$5 billion fund to help countries fight terrorism and to expand funding for Defence Department intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, special operations and other activities.

Obama cast the bloody civil war in Syria as more of counterterrorism challenge than a humanitarian crisis. He defended his decision to keep the US military out of the conflict but said he would seek to increase support for the Syrian opposition, as well as neighbouring countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq that have faced an influx of refugees and fear the spread of terrorism.

"In helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we also push back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos," Obama said.

The president's speech came one day after he outlined plans to wind down America's lengthy war in Afghanistan by the end of 2016. The blueprint calls for keeping 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for training and counterterrorism even after combat missions end later this year, but then withdraw them within two years.

Obama also praised continuing diplomatic efforts between Iran, the US and its negotiating partners - Germany, Britain, France, China and Russia - that aim to strip the Islamic republic of its nuclear capabilities.

While Obama said the odds of reaching an agreement were still long, he also said a diplomatic breakthrough would be "more effective and durable than what would be achieved through the use of force".


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This article is now closed to comments

China's foreign policy and actions are purely governed by its own self interests, and in the longer term, completely unsustainable. Maintaining economic prosperity, is one of only a few mechanisms it has to maintain social order within China itself. Further, its actions in the South China Sea are being used to stir nationalist sentiment within China as a means to distract the people's attention away from growing internal issues and problems.
“American influence is always stronger when we lead by example.”-
great rhetoric, but he neglected to state whether they are "good" or "bad" example, like spying on the whole universe and then accuse China on cyber espionage.
“It’s a lot harder to call on China to resolve its maritime disputes under the Law of the Sea Convention when the United States Senate has refused to ratify it" -
again, double standards, US is immune to the Law of the Sea because.... just because she is the 800# gorilla but China should abide by it :-).
“To say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution,” Obama said."
To me that means US might not come to Japan, the Philippines or Vietnam's rescue in case war erupts. So don't expect too much action on the part of the US in the South china sea until the next president comes in.
Abe is probably more anxious now to push for the collective self defense initiative so Japan can fight alongside Vietnamese and Philippinos. Will wait to see how it proceeds in the Diet.

I Gandhi
Obama should be ashamed of himself. He should do something about US aggression.
M Miyagi
Snake Obama, the US is a terrorist state. Stop your aggression!
M Miyagi
Compared to the US, China's foreign policies is a lot more inclusive and fairer and more peaceful. The US is just the reverse and have ended up with more enemies than files in a Brahmin's cow backside. That's precisely why 911 happened in the US and not China. You reap what you sow.
China is a threat to regional peace and security and it must be contain. America is the only one has trust and respect from virtual every nations in Asia Pacific lead. China is on the opposite, it does not has any friend or ally, it does not has any trust or respect from the region include North Korea.
P Blair
Snake Obama should take his own advice and stop US aggression in Asia as well as to stop the bloody War on Muslims.
What a ridiculous comment! How this stimulates active and healthy discussion I do not know! Being critical and being hateful are two completely different concepts. Being critical of policies, or courses of action, are necessary in the process of scrutinizing the actions of those in positions of power. We are fortunate that in Hong Kong, the people are free to voice and articulate whatever opinions they have without fear of repression.
M Miyagi
Just take the last 2 decades, the US have had an illegal war in Iraq under the false guise of WMD, the war in Afghanistan, the war on Libya and have made all kinds of military adventures. China had none. Which one should people trust? Which one is the aggressor?
All the China haters here are welcome to go back to their countries.



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