Asian Nations Bare Teeth Over South China Sea


SINGAPORE, Jun 11 (IPS) – China’s early-May decision to dispatch the state-of-the-art oil rig, HYSY981, into Vietnam’s 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), has intensified ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, raising fears of uncontrolled military escalation in one of the world’s most important waterways.

It wasn’t long before Vietnamese and Chinese maritime forces were locked in a dangerous naval standoff, which led to low-intensity clashes in the high seas.

China’s unilateral action sparked outrage across Vietnam, paving the way for unprecedented anti-China protests, which snowballed into massive destruction of foreign-owned factories, principally owned by China and Taiwan, and the exodus of thousands of Chinese citizens to neighbouring Cambodia.

The whole episode undermined years of painstaking negotiations between Hanoi and Beijing aimed at peacefully resolving bilateral territorial disputes across the South China Sea.

Shortly after, the Philippines also released photos suggesting Chinese construction activities on the Johnson South Reef, a disputed feature that falls within the Philippines EEZ in the Spratly Island chain in the South China Sea.

Later, China confirmed that it was indeed engaged in reclamation activities on the disputed reef, but it tried to justify it by claiming it exercised “indisputable and inherent” sovereignty over the said feature based on Beijing’s notorious “nine-dash-line” doctrine, which covers almost the entirety of the South China Sea.

The Philippines and Vietnam contend that China has flagrantly violated the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which explicitly discourages claimant states from unilaterally altering the status by engaging in, among other things, construction activities on disputed features.


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