SINGAPORE – China could abandon the nine-dash line – which underpins its claim of up to 90 per cent of the disputed waters in the South China Sea – without hurting its long-term interests, a China military expert said on Friday (Sept 18).
In fact, abandoning the line would boost its soft power and help the country win friends in Asean, added Dr Li Nan, a visiting senior research fellow at East Asian Institute (EAI).
“This is the time for China to give up the nine-dash line. It doesn’t work in its interest,” said Dr Li during a webinar about the maritime dispute, which was organised by EAI and ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
The speakers at The South China Sea Dispute: United States-China Rivalry, Lawfare and the Prospects for a Code of Conduct were mostly academics. They agreed that Asean and China were unlikely to issue guidelines on actions in the South China Sea by next year’s deadline, given the Covid-19 pandemic.
Run-ins between China and claimant Asean states such as the Philippines and Vietnam in the disputed waters have increased this year.
Tensions are also escalating between China and Indonesia. The latter lodged a protest with Beijing earlier this month after a Chinese coast guard ship spent two days in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, off the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea.
China’s nine-dash line, which is in conflict with international maritime law but which China uses to claim waters around Natuna Islands, is at the heart of the dispute.