China’s efforts to stake its claim to most of the South China Sea should spark fear around the world, with military conflict possible, Philippine President Benigno Aquino says.
In an exclusive interview, Aquino also warned that China’s increasingly assertive actions raised the spectre of other nations having access cut to vital international shipping lanes and rich fishing grounds in the sea.
“Does it engender fear? Yes, I think it should engender fear for the rest of the world,” Aquino said when asked to assess Chinese government moves in recent years to assert its sovereignty claims over the sea.
Aquino said that while he did not believe China intended to engage in a military conflict over the territorial disputes with the Philippines and other Asian nations, there was a possibility of one breaking out.
“The question of it escalating to something beyond everybody’s control should be at the top of the minds of all world leaders,” he said.
China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, including areas just off the coasts of other Asian nations, using vague demarcation lines that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
The contested claims have for decades made the sea one of Asia’s flashpoints, and tensions have risen in recent years as China has moved to assert its authority over the areas.