In mid-2014, the People’s Republic of China deployed an oil rig, protected by Chinese coast guard vessels, into waters claimed by Vietnam. Prior to this, the Chinese tried to prevent the resupply of Philippine Marines based on the Second Thomas Shoal in March 2014. Hence, buoyed by an economy that fuels its regional military preponderance, Beijing appears determined to realize its ambition of annexing the South China Sea and its territories.
However, despite Vietnamese and Filipino naval inferiority vis-à-vis China, they need not resign themselves to the slow erosion of their sovereignty, eventual relinquishment of their Exclusive Economic Zones, and their claim to South China Sea territories. Indeed, Vietnam has recently acquired Russian Kilo-class submarines and ordered Dutch Sigma-class corvettes, while the Philippines has taken delivery of two former U.S. Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, in attempts to shore up their maritime projection capabilities. However, more needs to and can be done to balance the ever increasing Chinese deployment of coast guard vessels to the South China Sea.
The Philippines has put its disputed territorial claims before an arbitration tribunal in The Hague. According to Gregory Polin, Manila’s arguments against China’s ‘nine-dash line’ and rival claims are entirely justified. It’s now up to the tribunal to weigh in and convince Beijing of these ‘facts’.
By Gregory Poling for Pacific Forum CSIS
Editor’s note: This article was reposted from PacNet #28 published by Pacific Forum CSIS and originally appeared in “Southeast Asia from Scott Circle” on April 3, 2014.
On March 30, the Philippines submitted a memorial detailing its arguments and evidence against China’s nine-dash line and other aspects of Beijing’s South China Sea claims to an arbitration tribunal at The Hague. The 10-volume, nearly 4,000-page document marks a bold step by Manila, and one that Beijing seems to have believed never would actually happen. The Philippines chose the right course. Now the international community must weigh in and convince China of that fact.
China has refused to take part in the case since it was first brought by the Philippines in January 2013. It has also exerted considerable pressure on Manila to abandon the arbitration proceedings. As the deadline for the memorial approached and pressure failed to alter the Philippine position, Beijing switched to the carrot. It reportedly offered Manila incentives to drop the case, including trade benefits and a mutual withdrawal of ships from Scarborough Shoal, which China occupied in April 2012. But the Philippines did not budge. An incident near a reef in the Spratly Islands on March 29 helps explain why.
WASHINGTON — China’s blocking of supplies to a Philippine outpost in the South China Sea is “provocative” and raises tensions, the United States said Wednesday, in its latest criticism of China’s assertive conduct in disputed seas of East Asia.
The Philippines, a U.S. ally, protested to China Tuesday its prevention of two Filipino vessels from taking supplies to troops on a decrepit military hospital ship that ran aground 15 years ago on the shallow coral outcrop of the Second Thomas Shoal. The rusty ship has since become the symbol of Philippine sovereignty over the area.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was troubled by the reported action by China’s coastguard. She said the Philippines has maintained a presence at the shoal since 1999, and other South China Sea claimant nations regularly resupply and repair their outposts without interference.
“This is a provocative move that raises tensions. Pending resolution of competing claims in the South China Sea, there should be no interference with the efforts of claimants to maintain the status quo,” Psaki said in a statement.
MANILA, Philippines — China rejectd anew the Philippines’ protest against its actions in the disputed seas after Beijing admitted preventing Filipino-owned ships from delivering construction materials to a Philippine-occupied shoal.
“The Foreign Ministry has summoned the head of the Philippines Embassy in China to lodge solemn representation on this event,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said late Wednesday.
Chinese coast guard vessels on Sunday drove away two Philippine vessels carrying construction materials meant for Ayungin Shoal, which China calls Ren’ai Reef.
The Chinese official said that the country’s move to contest China’s actions is proof of its intention to illegally occupy the Chinese-claimed reef.
MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese coast guard prevented delivery of supplies to Filipino soldiers guarding a disputed shoal in the South China Sea and an envoy rejected a Philippine protest over the interference, officials said Tuesday.
Chinese ships prevented two Filipino civilian vessels hired by the Philippine navy from reaching Second Thomas Shoal on Sunday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. The shoal is called Ayungin Shoal by Manila and Ren’ai Reef by the Chinese.
BEIJING – China said on Monday that its coast guard ships had driven away two Philippine that which had tried to approach a shoal in the South China Sea in the latest flare-up of a long-running territorial dispute.
The Chinese ships were patrolling waters around Second Thomas Shoal, known in China as the Ren’ai reef, when they spotted the Philippine boats, carrying construction materials and Philippine flags, which left the area after being warned off, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
The incident happened on Sunday, he added.
Qin said that China had repeatedly demanded the Philippines remove a ship which had been grounded on the shoal in 1999, but that Manila had cited technical reasons for being unable to do so.
MANILA, Philippines—China is turning the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) into “one country’s lake,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Tuesday, pressing Manila’s effort to roll back Beijing’s expansive claims in the strategic waterway.
Speaking before an experts’ roundtable on maritime security in Brussels, Belgium, Del Rosario said China’s assertion of ownership over almost all of the sea could restrict freedom of navigation in sea-lanes critical to global trade.
Southeast Asia has seen its fair share of happenings in recent months, ranging from the maritime incidents in the South China Sea to the recurring haze problems affecting some ASEAN members.
Moreover, the much vaunted ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which is supposed to mold ASEAN into a single market and production base, is scheduled to go into effect but two years from now in 2015.
It was against these eventful backdrops that the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting took place recently in Brunei Darussalam, followed by the expanded ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) attended by the foreign ministers of many other ASEAN partner countries.
TWO WEEKS ago, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused ASEAN of an anti-Beijing conspiracy over disputed South China Sea (SCS) territory at the start of the foreign ministers meeting in Brunei, and called the Philippines a provocateur for stirring tensions in the SCS. That imperious salvo triggered a sharp response from DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario. China’s claim of indisputable sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea (SCS) based on its 9-dash line is a grossly excessive claim. He reiterated that the dispute must be settled in accordance with international law and asked all the countries in the meeting to support the rule of law. – See more at: http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=China%E2%80%99s-cabbage-strategy&id=73042#sthash.5hjvDT0V.dpuf
This week the Association of Southeast Asian Nations appeared to make progress on addressing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Following meetings in Brunei, the group announced that China had agreed to discuss a set of rules known as the “code of conduct” to avoid conflict in the disputed waters.
Last year’s ASEAN forum ended without a consensus because of squabbles over the South China Sea. The group concluded its meetings without a joint statement for the first time in its history.
This year, the joint communiqué emphasizes adhering to an 11-year-old non-binding agreement among China and the 10-member states to peacefully handle competing claims in the South China Sea. It also calls for “formal consultations” on a code of conduct in September in Beijing. The talks are expected to take place among lower level officials and focus on steps to avoid conflict. They are not expected to discuss the territorial disputes