US-Philippines deal won't stop China in disputed sea - analyst
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2014 - 12:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — The new defense cooperation agreement between the Philippines and the United States will not deter China from conducting activities in the West Philippine Sea, an international security analyst said.

Rommel Banlaoi, chief of the Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies, said in a phone interview with Philstar.com on Tuesday that China may step up its activities in the disputed waters with Manila and Washington about to complete a deal allowing the rotational presence of American troops in Philippine soil.

Banlaoi explained that while China will not send naval or military vessels in the maritime region claimed by the Philippines, it may find the need to boost its civilian presence in the area using coast guard ships.

"China considers the deal provocative," Banlaoi said, adding that Manila's move to invite a third party power amid the tension can be seen as controversial.

China has already said that the US does not and should not have a role in the sea row with the Philippines.

Read: China US has no role in sea dispute

Banlaoi pointed out Beijing's staggering increase in defense budgets and its fast-growing naval capability as a sign that it has been preparing for the bilateral agreement between its Southeast Asian neighbor and the Western power.

The defense academic and consultant, however, does not think China will trigger an armed confrontation even as it has displayed an assertiveness in the region.

"China wants a stable economic environment," he said.

Banlaoi said that the Asian giant wants to position itself as a global power, and a military conflict will not help its reputation in the international community.

"Armed confrontation [for China] ... is too costly. It will avoid disrupting economic activities in the South China Sea," he added.

China claims about 80 percent of the strategic waterway, making it at odds with neighbors including Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

BANLAOI CHINA INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES MALAYSIA AND THE PHILIPPINES MANILA AND WASHINGTON PHILIPPINES AND THE UNITED STATES ROMMEL BANLAOI SOUTH CHINA SEA SOUTHEAST ASIAN WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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