China-Mekong River Nations: Chinese press reported that joint security patrols with Thailand, Laos and Burma/ Myanmar will begin along the Mekong River. At a ministerial meeting in Beijing, the four countries agreed to begin the first patrol before 15 December and that the operation’s headquarters be located in China. The patrols will allow shipping to restart and guarantee security with China to help train and equip police in Laos and Myanmar.
Comment: Many younger Readers might not know that the Mekong River originates in southwest China and flows southwards through Southeast Asia to the South China Sea. The omission of Cambodia from the joint agreement indicates the security problems are in the upper reaches of the river. Thus, the security problems are in effect, inland waterways security issues along navigable waterways.
The interesting dynamic is the Chinese success in moving southward, by exploiting lapses of local security along a key waterway, to extend the Chinese sphere of influence. The Chinese have not had Chinese patrol boats or river security advisors on the Mekong along the Laos, Burma and Thai borders in centuries.
Phi Beta Iota: Viet-Nam, long a co-equal and counter-weight to China in Southeast Asia, is not mentioned. As the map illuminates, Cambodia and Viet-Nam control the entry points to the Mekong River. Viet-Nam’s control of the eastern coast also precludes–absent an agreement–an obvious option for future commerce, a major canal or rail cut from the Mekong east to Vinh, one of four Grade 1 cities in Viet-Nam, a major ground transport hub, and a notable port.