Is war over the festering South China Sea (SCS) maritime dispute between China and the Southeast Asian claimants of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam inevitable in 2015?
China’s rising assertiveness, the firmness of claimants like the Philippines and Vietnam and the big powers’ interest in the region, have led to fears that tensions might escalate into armed conflict between the contumacious China and one or two claimant countries in 2015, said a top US think-tank in a survey recently.
The Washington-based Center for Preventive Action (CPA), a research wing of the Council on Foreign Relations, rated the SCS as one of top 10 potential conflicts in its Preventive Priorities Survey 2015.
According to the survey, the other nine potential conflicts are Iraq, a large-scale terrorist attack on
the US or an ally, North Korea, Israel’s attacks on Iran, the Syrian civil war, Afghanistan, Ukraine,
cyber-attacks and Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
“One high-priority contingency — an armed confrontation in the South China Sea — was upgraded in likelihood from low to moderate this year,” the CPA said.
Throughout 2014, China, which has shown no signs of agreeing to a code of conduct (CoC), tried to continue its unilateral actions, known as “salami slicing” in the SCS, and appease ASEAN countries through trade, investments and loans.
But Chinese actions created more concerns than ever. Like a drop of poison, the SCS has disrupted good relations between China and ASEAN claimant countries, as well as Indonesia.