Commentary: U.S. role in Asia-Pacific should be constructive, not hegemonic

BEIJING, March 19 (Xinhua) -- The United States, the world's sole superpower and largest economy, should play a constructive but not a hegemonic role in the Asia-Pacific region, home to the South China Sea that is witnessing rising tensions fueled by U.S. activity.

The United States and the Philippines on Friday announced a deal allowing for a rotating U.S. military presence at five Philippine bases, including one close to the Nansha Islands of China in the South China Sea.

The deal, reached under a 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two countries, aims to expand U.S. military presence in its former colony through rotation of ships and aircraft for "humanitarian and maritime" security operations.

Such military cooperation is within the framework of bilateral arrangement between the United States and the Philippines. It is welcome that the United States, an important stakeholder in the Asia-Pacific, cooperates with regional countries.

However, any form of alliance or cooperation should not be built at the expense of sovereign interests of a third party.

In fact, like in other parts of the world, Washington has spared no efforts to flex its muscle in the Asia-Pacific, in a bid to show its global hegemony that is already waning nowadays.

On the South China Sea territorial disputes, despite its promise to stay neutral, the United States has actually taken a clearly lopsided approach favoring China's rival claimants and even staged various military maneuvers that infringed upon China's sovereignty.

Washington has sent its warships and warplanes to waters and airspace near China's territory in the South China Sea in recent years.

Nearly two months ago, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) off Zhongjian Dao, part of China's Xisha Islands, without prior notice to the Chinese side in accordance with international law.

The Pentagon later claimed it was a "Freedom of Navigation" mission. But such an operation does not accord with international law and disregards the sovereignty, security and maritime interests of coastal countries.

And now, implementing a defense pact signed two years ago with the Philippines, one of the most aggressive South China Sea claimants, and designating an air base facing the Nansha Islands as one of the five locations which American forces will have access to have fueled speculation about Washington's real purpose behind the moves.

It is advisable that Washington refrain from taking sides on the South China Sea issue and let concerned parties solve the issue through negotiations in accordance with international law.

Muddying waters in the South China Sea and making the Asia-Pacific a second Middle East will do no good to the United States.

China and the United States share broad common interests in Asia-Pacific affairs. If the two world powers continue to respect each other and boost cooperation, the region and the rest of the world will enjoy long-lasting peace, stability and prosperity.

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