World View: Philippines building naval base in South China Sea

This morning's key headlines from
  • 50,000 Syrian Christians ask for Russian citizenship
  • Philippines building a new naval base in South China Sea

50,000 Syrian Christians ask for Russian citizenship

An enclave of 50,000 Christians in Syria have sent a letter to Russia's Foreign Ministry seeking dual citizenship: 

"Since Syrian law allows dual citizenship, we have decided to seek citizenship of the Russian Federation if this is possible. Russian citizenship would be an honor for any Syrian Christian who wished to acquire it. ...

It is for the first time since the Nativity of Christ that we Christians of Qalamoun living in the villages of Saidnaya, Maara Saidnaya, Maaloula and Maaroun are under threat of banishment from our land. We prefer death to exile and life in refugee camps, and so we will defend our land, honor and faith, and will not leave the land on which Christ walked."

The Christians are allied with the Bashar al-Assad regime, and are fearful of terrorist attack by the al-Qaeda linked jihadists that have been coming to Syria, which they blame on the West. 

Russia's Foreign Ministry said that the issue was up to Russia's leadership to decide, since Russian citizenship is granted by presidential decree. Interfax Religion (Moscow) and Ria Novosti (Moscow)

Philippines building a new naval base in South China Sea

Although hostile confrontations between China and nations bordering the South China Sea have been out of the news for a while, tensions have remained high. However, China still claims all the islands and resources of the entire South China Sea, including regions that have historically belonged to other countries, including Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines. China blames the United States for stirring up trouble by, among other things, encouraging the Philippines to submit its dispute with China to the international tribunal of the United Nations’ law of the sea, which China refuses to recognize. According to a recent editorial in China's government organ: 

"But the US has not succeeded in convincing Asia-Pacific nations that these international laws are crucial to their foreign policy. Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia have all tacitly or explicitly admitted Beijing's sovereignty over the islands and islets within the South China Sea's nine-dash line. However, these three countries have all seized some islands and islets on the Chinese side of the nine-dash line. The US has failed to fairly judge the disputes - in fact, once again, it encourages these nations to contest Chinese claims."

This is a really bizarre description of the situation, but it's probably one the many Chinese officials believe. Furthermore, China's leadership has become increasingly assertive in the last few weeks as China's president Xi Jinping made a strong presence at the ASEAN meeting of southeast Asian nations, while President Obama was a complete no-show because of the government shutdown. 

The Philippines has, in particular, decided that it can't entirely depend on the U.S. for protection in the South China Sea, despite the mutual defense treaty that the two signed decades ago. As we recently reported ( "17-Aug-13 World View -- U.S. and Philippines make military plans to counter China"), Philippine and U.S. officials have agreed that the U.S. will deploy aircraft, ships, troops and equipment in civilian and military facilities in the Philippines, while the Philippines beefs up its own military capabilities. Last week, Philippine officials announced that they're building a new naval base in the South China Sea on Oyster Bay, just 100 miles from the Spratly Islands, which are bitterly contested between the Philippines, Vietnam and China. China Daily (Beijing) and The Diplomat

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