US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet has ended his week-long visit to the Indo-Pacific countries of the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan today.
Counselor Chollet’s visit formed a part of the US commitment to its Indo-Pacific partnership strategy with the Philippines and Vietnam. Both countries have a long-running dispute with China over the ownership of both the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. While the concern about increasing Chinese influence in the region is a shared one, the US also remains interested in keeping the Sea’s access unrestricted. Specifically, so that it can gain access to those islands that serve as strategic military choke points with the potential of contesting regional trade routes.
In the interest of the regional strategic partnership, the visit marked the US commitment to its bilateral and multilateral partnership with Indo-Pacific alliances. Equally, it demonstrated the US’ need for assistance in maintaining the unrestricted freedom of navigation within the South China Sea. For the moment, the US looks like it will focus on shoring up security and economic cooperation with these countries to counter the Chinese advancement. In the event of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, the US may call upon these partners for a unified response.
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Promod is an Analyst on the Analysis team.