South China Sea: Regional States Push Back Against China


On March 18, officials from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Singapore to resume consultations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that began last September. This meeting should have created an atmosphere for the lowering of tensions in the South China Sea. At the least, China and the ASEAN claimant states could have been expected to avoid provocations while the consultations were progressing.

Just the opposite occurred. Nine days before the ASEAN-China discussions commenced, Chinese Coast Guard vessels stationed at Second Thomas Shoal took the unprecedented action of blocking routine resupply for Philippine Marines stationed at the shoal.

At the end of March, as the deadline approached for the Philippines to submit its memorial to the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal set up to hear Philippine claims regarding its maritime entitlements under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), China unleashed a shrill diplomatic attack on the Philippines.

In the midst of these developments, South China Sea claimant states began to push back against China’s assertiveness.


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