The three tests powers must pass to avoid Asian tragedy


Asean, China and the US must reach agreement on rules, resource management and maritime operations in the South China Sea

The three powers via for influence in our region – the US, Asean and China – are now entangled in the South China Sea territory disputes one way or another. Four Asean members have overlapping sovereignty claims among themselves and also with China. The claims cover hundreds of tiny islands, islets, rocks and even reefs and sandbanks as well as the maritime projection of those tiny features, which under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are either owned by countries whose 12 nautical miles of territorial water they fall within or are not owned at all due to their natural state as submerged features.

While the US is not a party to the dispute, it has economic and strategic interests in the region, and it could be drawn into an open conflict since its treaty partner the Philippines has a sovereignty dispute with China.

The South China Sea dispute is now the focal point of competition for regional influence between the US and China, with analysts drawing comparisons with of the Peloponnesian war, where the rising power of Athens created fear in the dominant power of Sparta.