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June 26, 2017

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China's influence in Asia growing stronger: WSJ

NEW YORK -- Chinese influence in Asia is growing stronger as China continues to push its claims to disputed territory in ways that other nations are finding it increasingly difficult to oppose, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Tuesday.

Michael Auslin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a column on Japan and U.S.-Asian relations for the newspaper that a worrisome trend of power politics in Asia will reshape the face of the region, evidenced by several events over the past week.

On one hand, Beijing announced last week that it will build lighthouses on five disputed islands in the South China Sea, undercutting rival claims by Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan to the territories, Auslin said.

Also last week, the ASEAN Regional Forum, a consultative meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China and other member nations, dismissed a U.S.-backed proposal that no nation should take provocative actions in the South China Sea, he added.

"China's size and strength make it the dominant actor against any one nation," Auslin wrote in his column.

"The new political alignments are far from becoming any type of mutual security organization that could respond to Chinese provocations. Nor, it seems clear, do even China's antagonists want to take such adversarial roles," the scholar said.

What's even worse is that China is trying to diplomatically isolate the United States, as China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi sought to portray the U.S. as "an outlier" at the ASEAN Regional Forum and urged Asian countries to solve their maritime disputes "without any outside interference," Auslin said.

The only way to urge China to change its behavior, Auslin said, is "a risky and concerted push by the region's militarily capable powers," such as preventing China from building the lighthouses on the five disputed islands.

But the odds of that happening are "infinitesimally small," he admitted, noting that China's presence in disputed waters will increase in Asia's new power politics.

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