New Delhi: Is Beijing now courting Southeast Asian countries in a bid to counter the backlash against its moves in the South China Sea? State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has invited his counterparts from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to visit China from March 31 to April 2. Relations between Manila and Beijing have been tense after 220 ‘fishing’ vessels of China’s maritime militia anchored off a Philippines claimed reef-the Whitsun(Julian Felipe) for weeks. Professor Jay L. Batongbacal, Director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Sea Law and Executive Associate Dean at Philippines University’s College of Law speaks to StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi on the current tension in the West Philippines Sea, President Rodrigo Duterte thanking the U.S. for its support, his previous flip flops with ‘best friend’ and treaty ally-the U.S., his China tilt, ASEAN reactions, Beijing’s previous moves in disputed areas and militarisation of artificial islands. He was the legal advisor to the Philippine delegation that successfully pursued the claim to a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise Region in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
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