Why should the U.S. stand in for Asian nations?

The absence of support for Vietnam by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the country?s contest with China over a drilling rig in the South China Sea raises questions about how seriously nations of the region take the threat of Chinese bullying.

The issue springs from the rise of China as an economic and military power in Asia and in the world. The United States, in President Barack Obama?s recent visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines and in his policy pivot to Asia, is taking Chinese ambitions seriously and making moves to counter them.

One point of friction is the contested sovereignty over assorted uninhabited islands, perhaps containing petroleum deposits, in the East and South China Seas and claimed variously by Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and China. These include the Paracels, the Scarborough Shoal, the Spratlys and what the Japanese call the Senkakus and the Chinese the Diaoyus. During his visit last month, Obama said the United States stood with Japan in its dispute with China.

The most recent skirmish was between Vietnam and the Chinese, who installed a large oil rig near the Paracel Islands, 140 miles off the Vietnamese coast, and defended their right to be there with naval vessels.

The Vietnamese expected that the ASEAN countries, meeting in Myanmar over the weekend, would have supported them with a resolution against China. Although four of its 10 members have such disputes with the Chinese, such support did not come. It?s plausible that China exerted economic or political pressure on ASEAN members, but how much is unknown.

The question for the United States becomes, if nations near China aren?t willing to speak with one voice and defend their interests on issues of sovereignty, then why should the United States?

—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 13


FAA is dragging on drone regulation

It's become increasingly clear that the major obstacle to the use of drones to assist in tasks that would lower costs and improve productivity across a host of commercial activities is not the technology but the Federal Aviation Administration.

This lumbering agency is on a slow-motion process of figuring out how to regulate commercial drone use. And we do mean slow-motion. Seven years after asserting that commercial drones are illegal, the FAA is still trying to get its regulatory act together.

And while the agency is expected to issue a formal rule by year's end, the head of the FAA's unmanned aircraft office said recently that the entire rulemaking could take seven to 10 more years, according to Forbes contributor John Goglia.

"So it seems that no rules are likely to be finalized until the end of 2021 at the earliest and possibly not until 2024," Goglia wrote.

This footdragging will slow down the adaptation of a technology that could be usefully deployed by farmers, rescuers, movie-makers, news organizations, and literally scores of other occupations. The FAA needs to get a move on.

—The Denver Post, May 13