China has been behaving aggressively in the South China Sea for some time now, in what can only be seen as the country’s efforts to assert sovereignty over disputed territories also claimed by some members of Asean.
Needless to say, such behaviour is not healthy for the overall atmosphere of peace and stability in the region.
The struggle to control the sea has become important because it has long been the route used by all sorts of nations, plus about US$5 trillion (Bt175 trillion) worth of annual trade passes through its waters.
The dispute has forced one of the claimants, the Philippines, to turn to an international arbitration court to resolve the row. The court is expected to rule in a few weeks’ time on the case brought by Manila.
It is hoped that China will accept the outcome of the court’s decision and work with the Philippines and other claimants on a mutually acceptable resolution. But no one is holding their breath on this, as China refuses to accept the court’s jurisdiction even though Beijing has ratified the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. It is under this treaty that the case is being considered.