At least four strong earthquakes, including a magnitude 6, simultaneously struck Batangas province on Saturday afternoon, sending shockwaves across nearby provinces including in Metro Manila. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the first strong tremor – measuring magnitude 5.6 – struck at 3:07 p.m. Its epicenter was located at two kilometers northwest of Mabini, Batangas. Two minutes later, a stronger magnitude 6 struck at 12 kilometers northwest of Mabini. A third earthquake measuring magnitude 4.1 was felt at 3:29 p.m., while a magnitude 4.7 struck at 4:36 p.m.
The United States have decided to flex its muscles in the South China Sea to reassure regional allies and send a clear message to China, whose claims on the area appear more and more explicit.
Two Americans Carrier Strike Group (CSG), each composed of a aircraft carriers and other warships of large size, started last Saturday a series of military exercises in the territorial waters of the Philippines, a key ally in the dispute for the control of the South Asian seas.
The drill involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carriers Ronald Reagan and John C. Stennis, 12,000 sailors, 140 aircraft and six battleships, a few days from the judgment that an international court is preparing to issue about the Chinese claims on the disputed sea stretches. The message is clear: the US does not intend to leave field to the Chinese opponent and regional allies, from the Philippines, will not be left alone in the face of Beijing’s pressures.
The American ships began to carry out air defense, maritime surveillance and long-range attack maneuvers, showcasing their firepower not far from the disputed waters, in which China continues its constructive activities of artificial atolls for civilian and military purposes.
The intent of the drills, in the formal language of the navy information bulletins, would be to promote the freedom of navigation and overflight in the waters and on the skies of the area. The statements that come from commands better clarify the purpose of the drill: ” (This) has been a great opportunity for us to train on how we would operate multiple Carrier Strike Sroups in a contested environment” explained Admiral John Alexander .
By Philippine, military mobilization is the clear demonstration that the US is determined to give credence to their ” ironclad commitment”, reiterated on several occasions, in favor Asian ally. ” e welcome the strong cooperation and partnership we have with our friends and allies … in light of (the dispute) where our legitimate rights have been overstepped” said Peter Galvez, spokesman of the Philippine Department of Defense.
The reference is to the decision, expected in a few weeks, in which the Court of Permanent Arbitration of The Hague will speak about the legitimacy of the Beijing claims on the the South China Sea waters, one of the most important navigable areas of the world, from economic and strategic points of view, on which also overlook Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan and on which the interests of China, US and Japan gather.
The ruling will likely be favorable to the Philippines, which addressed to the international court to counter Chinese expansion. China, for its part, has decided to ignore the court, to which does not recognize any jurisdiction over the matter, and did not take part in the proceedings.
Monday, November 16, as part of the bilateral talks at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum of Manila, the Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida have reached a preliminary agreement for cooperation in the fight against international terrorism. The agreement comes in response to the attacks that have bloodied Paris on the night of Friday and to the attack suffered by the Thai capital in August, which killed 20 people.
” The international community – said Kishida – should be united to resolutely condemn the terrorist acts”. The two ministers then promised closer cooperation between their countries in the fight against the terrorist threat.
4500 Japanese companies operates in Thailand and over 60,000 Japanese citizens live and work in the country. Foreign Minister Kishida has therefore asked the Thai government to do everything is possible to ensure the safety of its citizens and to protect Nipponese investments. At the same time, he confirmed the support of his government for the development of new infrastructure in the country of Southeast Asia, starting from the rail network.
The meeting also focused on the South China Sea issue and tensions involving the powers of the area, for the control of maritime communications. Keshida hopes that ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations, launches a joint appeal at the next summit in Kuala Lumpur to demand greater regional stability and respect for the rule of law.
Japan, in fact, is directly interested in the dispute. Although Tokio has not territorial claims, It considers crucial for japanase economy to ensure free navigation on the South China Sea waters and is putting pressure on the Southeast Asia countries to create a joint front that could limit Chinese expansionism. A difficult goal to achieve since Beijing is acting in parallel, on the diplomatic front, to strengthen its positions and weaken the ASEAN countries claims.
Even the Asian stocks initially suffered the effects of the Paris attacks, with substantial losses on Monday, when the markets opened. Fear was short-lived, on the financial markets, and already on Tuesday the main lists of the continent were back in positive territory, with gains over 1%, after the European and US stock markets recorded a first bounce.