Behind the Scenes / Struggling to build coalition to contain China


The situation surrounding the South China Sea has started to change, as the positions of such relevant players as the Philippines and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are wavering in regard to the Chinese buildup of military bases. The governments of Japan and the United States, which have called for China to exercise self-restraint, now find themselves in a difficult position.

China at fault

On July 12, a court of arbitration in The Hague issued its first ruling on the South China Sea dispute based on the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, see below). The ruling categorically rejected claims by China that its sovereignty extends up to the “nine-dash line,” a demarcation line that encloses most of the South China Sea.

UNCLOS is sometimes referred to as the supreme law of the sea. The fact that third-party experts in international law examined the case impartially and concluded that China was at fault was of particular significance. The South China Sea is part of an important sea route used by ships from all over the world to transport resources and goods. China’s increased military presence in the region has caused concern in both economic and energy security terms.