The Philippines on Thursday warned that territorial rows in Asia are “causing considerable tension that could lead to conflict” as several countries face off with China over island claims.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, speaking at a Tokyo business conference, said China’s “nine-dash line claim encompassing almost the entire South China Sea” is “excessive.”
“In addition to the South China Sea, we have in Northeast Asia, home to Asia’s biggest economic powerhouses, several disputes that have adversely affected relations between and among Japan, China and the Republic of Korea.
“The competing territorial and maritime disputes are causing considerable tension that could lead to conflict,” he warned.
Category Archives: Asia
Amidst all the regional concerns about North Korea, the Senkaku dispute between China and Japan has continued to fester. This past week, the situation has escalated, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry specifically stating that the Senkakus are a “core interest.” General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that the Chinese had used this term in his discussions with them as well.
China has since dispatched a naval task force to South China Sea waters around Jones Reef, claimed by Malaysia. This marks a major escalation in Chinese activity. Not only is this the first use of Chinese naval forces (rather than civilian law-enforcement vessels) but it is also the first major move against Malaysia, which has generally adopted a low-key approach to the South China Sea claims. At the same time, China has rejected an attempt by the Philippines to submit their dispute to arbitration under the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).
Chinese government statements that the Senkakus are a Chinese core interest are part of a general hardening of China’s position on territorial disputes. Whereas it had been more flexible in the late 1990s and early 2000s with its Russian and Central Asian neighbors, today’s China is far less willing to compromise, and is staking out positions that are increasingly difficult to back away from. What Beijing fails to recognize is that its single-minded pursuit of its territorial claims risks running afoul of the core interests of its neighbors, whose own national sovereignty, national security, and territorial integrity are being jeopardized as a result.
Where is China headed as it hardens its position concerning surrounding territories? It is increasingly coming into conflict with many of its neighbors. It has adopted a strategy that it is incapable of backing away from. If it can’t go back, then it must move forward. China’s neighbors are watching it with alarm and building up their militaries. The US has also been building up in Asia, much to China’s displeasure.
The current direction of China appears to run it right into the US. Even if China gets all the territory it wants, that still won’t be enough. It will eventually shut down freedom of passage through the South China Sea. Foreign military vessels will be restricted, and all vessels will be subject to boarding. Is that going to be tolerable to India, Japan and the US?
China is not likely to get what it wants due to resistance from all countries involved. China sees the US behind this resistance and the main sources of its problems. One Chinese general sees war with the US as imminent. However, I think imminent just means China has reached a tipping point and war is a real possibility. China can remain in this state for quite some time, until it has a good excuse.
Inside China: PLA says war with U.S. imminent – Washington Times [June 27, 2012]
A Chinese general recently offered an alarming assessment that a future conflict with the United States is coming as a result of U.S. “containment” policies.
“The United States has been exhausting all its resources to establish a strategic containment system specifically targeting China,” Gen. Peng said.”The contradictions between China and the United States are structural, not to be changed by any individual, whether it is G.H.W. Bush, G.W. Bush or Barack Obama, it will not make a difference to these contradictions.”
It is commonly acknowledged that a single blunder or incident now could further incite either China or the coalition of Asian states that oppose it to declare war on one another. However, the strange thing is that this is without a doubt the opposite of what is in their collective interests. China’s booming economy is largely a result of trade relations with the greater South East Asian region, and the various nations that fall within that area rely greatly upon their business with China to keep them going. Above all, the flourishing shipping routes that criss-cross the South China Sea bring wealth to everyone in the region, and they must not be disturbed. A war would endanger regional wealth and prosperity and leads many to wonder why China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan or the Philippines would risk it.
When one looks carefully at these several claims, reviewing their historical bases, and examining the assorted strategies that are being used to bolster these claims, one thing leaps out: China is almost single-handedly driving this conflict.
I say not just because of the size of China’s claim, but because of its sheer ambiguity. Beijing balks at delimiting its claim, other than to draw a dashed line around the South China Sea that appears to run less than 50 miles from the coast of the countries — Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines — that actually surround the sea. It is difficult, if not impossible, to enter into negotiations with a country that simply refuses to precisely state its claims.
Moreover, according to the authors, the Chinese claim has shallow roots, dating back only to a map that was drawn up in 1947. By way of comparison, they note, there are official records of Nguyen Dynasty Emperor Minh Mang ordering the construction of a temple and stele on the Paracel Islands in 1835. Yet, apparently acting on the principle that possession is nine-tenths of the law, China took the Paracels from Vietnam by force in 1974 and continues to hold the islands today against all comers.
Amazon.com: Regional Disorder: The South China Sea Disputes
China’s rise casts a vast and uncertain shadow over the regional balance of power in the Asia Pacific, and nowhere is this clearer than in the South China Sea. The significance of the fraught territorial disputes in this potentially resource-rich sea extends far beyond the small groupings of islands that are at their heart, and into the world of great-power politics. As the struggle for hegemony between the US and China intersects with the overlapping aspirations of emerging, smaller nations, the risk of escalation to regional conflict is real.
Christian Le Mière and Sarah Raine cut through the complexities of these disputes with a clear-sighted, and much-needed, analysis of the assorted strategies deployed in support of the multiple and competing claims in the SCS. They make a compelling case that the course of these disputes will determine whether the regional order in Southeast Asia is one of cooperation, or one of competition and even conflict.
As it pursues its territorial ambitions, China is following an increasingly belligerent course that could easily tip into war with its neighbours.
In the last few days, elements of the People’s Liberation Army have aggressively intruded into the territory of both Japan and India.
At the same time, China has ratcheted up its rhetoric with Vietnam and the Philippines as those countries attempt to assert their sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry told reporters that the Senkakus are one of the country’s “core interests,” a phrase it usually reserves for issues which Beijing considers nonnegotiable and over which it is prepared to go to war.
The “core interests” phrase is also applied by Beijing to its claim to the island nation of Taiwan, and to almost the entire South China Sea as far south as the territorial waters of Indonesia.
Beijing’s long-standing border dispute with India in the Himalayas, which spawned a brief but intense war in 1962, comes from China’s occupation of India’s northern neighbour, Tibet.
In the way China made land grabs across the Himalayas in the 1950s by launching furtive encroachments, it is now waging stealth wars — without firing a single shot — to change the status quo in the South and East China seas, on the line of control with India, and on international-river flows.
Although China has risen from a poor state to a global economic powerhouse, the key elements in its statecraft and strategic doctrine have not changed.
Since the Mao Zedong era, China has adhered to ancient theorist Sun Tzu’s advice: “The ability to subdue the enemy without any battle is the ultimate reflection of the most supreme strategy.”
The Philippines on Friday accused Beijing of engaging in the “de facto occupation” of a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, following a face-off that began last year.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said three Chinese government ships remained in the vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal, scaring off local fishermen.
“The Chinese have tried to establish a de facto occupation,” he told reporters.
The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as recognised by international law.