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Known unknowns of politics in the South China Sea

2015-06-28 11:38:09       source:The Straits Times


THE United States-China annual Strategic Security Dialogue has come and gone without any hint of progress on South China Sea issues. Presumably, the two sides will keep talking with a view to reaching some sort of an understanding or compromise perhaps associated with Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Washington in September.

However, the situation is not static and there are several "known unknowns" that could affect the South China Sea situation in the foreseeable future.

That phrase, of course, comes from former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's description of threats that has entered the popular lexicon: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

A significant initial part of the US pivot to Asia is its enhanced alliance with and military presence in the Philippines. The US-Philippines Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) gives US troops wide access to local military bases.

The writer is adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, China.

Read more: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/more-opinion-stories/story/known-unknowns-politics-the-south-china-sea-20150627