Asia Should Not Delay Settling South China Sea Disputes – Analysis


Asian nations could unite and resolve South, East China Sea conflicts – showing they don’t need US as enforcer.

Having moved at a snail’s pace for years, the international dispute over control of the South China Sea is reaching a new stage. The United States military is openly challenging China’s claim of some 90 percent of this 3.5 million square kilometer global trade route.

Both governments have warned of the risk of miscalculation, creating a specter of South East Asia returning to its role of half a century ago when it was combative arena for super-power rivalry.

The unpredictability of the American presidential election now heightens the risk because inevitably it will come with ramped-up anti-China campaign rhetoric. This begs the question as to whether it would be better for the East Asian region to sort out the dispute itself and ask the United States to step back.

Opposition to that concept within the United States itself comes from the criticism and perceived failure of President Barack Obama’s non-interventionist brand of foreign policy. But the testing ground for this has been in the Middle East where neither intervention nor holding back has worked well.

East Asia is very different. Having picked itself up from many wars over the past century, it has built world-class economies with strong institutions. The region has shown how trade can be used to dampen political tensions, and how dictatorships can transition peacefully to varying degrees of democracy. It has an enviable track record of prioritizing trade and the future over war and historical grievances and has earned a reputation for brave ideas – from Japan’s post-war recovery to the development of the Singaporean city-state to the economic giant that China has become.

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