Asian Countries Fear Being Forced to Choose between China, US over Disputed Sea

Asian countries that pride themselves on neutral foreign policies face growing pressure to support either China or the United States in a sticky maritime sovereignty dispute, but they are expected to bid for both and keep the aid coming in.Southeast Asian claimants to the disputed South China Sea grappled with the prospect of choosing sides over the weekend at the annual Shangri-la Dialogue defense forum in Singapore. The question loomed so large that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned of smaller countries being “forced” to take sides.This is probably going to lead to a situation that the Singapore prime minister called being forced to choose between two sides,” said Jay Batoncbacal, international maritime affairs professor at University of the Philippines. "So, that’s really the problem here if it continues to escalate.”China wants other countries to accept economic boosts and bilateral talks to settle maritime sovereignty issues. Beijing has already pushed for joint undersea fuel exploration with Vietnam and the Philippines, two frontline South China Sea states. It has funded infrastructure in a third, Malaysia.At the Shangri-la Dialogue, attended by more than 600 delegates from 40 countries, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe appealed for “mutual cooperation”.................


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