Hundreds of defense officials are meeting in Singapore this weekend to talk about managing the widely contested, resource-rich South China Sea. That’s what the agenda says at least. The forum might actually turn into a verbal water fight over what everyone should do about China after a United Nations court rules sometime this month whether Beijing has rights to about 95% of the sea including militarization of its islets.
China rejects the U.N. arbitration process initiated by the Philippines, which is tipped to get its way. Beijing prefers to talk with its six militarily weaker rival maritime claimants one on one about managing the sea rather than with groups including the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. A model for its cause is Malaysia, a South China Sea claimant that seldom complains about China due to Beijing’s heavy investments in the country.