Mar del Sur

The USS Carl Vinson pulls into port in Danang on 5 March. Photo: Getty Images.

The United States is sending one of its largest ships, the USS Carl Vinson, to Vietnam this week. It will be the first aircraft carrier to dock in the country since the end of the war in Vietnam, over 40 years ago.

In some respects this is a routine event: other US warships have been visiting Vietnamese ports since 2003. But it is also a symbolic moment. Previously, Vietnamese governments kept aircraft carriers at arm’s length – officials have only visited them far offshore. By welcoming the USS Carl Vinson into the harbour at Danang, the country’s third city, and the one closest to the disputed Paracel Islands, Vietnam is clearly sending out some strong messages.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indonesia has long been cautious in confronting China’s claims in the South China Sea, so its announcement on July 14 that it was renaming a part of the area the “North Natuna Sea” may have come to many as surprise. The new name encompasses a region north of the Natuna islands that partly falls within the infamous “nine dash line,” by which China claims the sea stretching fifteen hundred miles from its mainland coast almost to the shores of Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Indonesia. China immediately demanded a retraction—which it will not get.

The naming was a reminder of how seriously Indonesia treats its position as the seat of ancient trading empires and location of some of the world’s strategically most important straits—Melaka, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Les contentieux territoriaux en mer de Chine méridionale sont à l’agenda du 16e sommet sur la sécurité en Asie (appelé aussi Dialogue Shangri-La), organisé à Singapour, qui rassemble du 2 au 4 juin les principaux acteurs de la défense en Asie-Pacifique. Plus de la moitié du commerce maritime mondial transite dans cet espace, qui compte parmi les plus riches en ressources et biodiversité sous-marine.

La zone fait l’objet de revendications concurrentes de la Chine (qui prétend posséder 90 % de la zone) et des Etats côtiers (Taïwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaisie, Brunei, Indonésie). De tels désaccords n’ont rien d’exceptionnel dans une région située aux confins d’anciens empires, à terre comme en mer, mais leur évolution récente est préoccupante.…  Seguir leyendo »

China’s seizure of a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) in the South China Sea last month garnered widespread attention. The drone was an oceanographic research instrument, available for commercial purchase off the shelf and without any value for capture.

Although Washington and Beijing seemed to resolve the issue within a few days, other commentators have noted that the incident fits into a pattern of Chinese behavior surrounding American transitions of power. Both the 2001 EP-3 collision and the 2009 harassment of the USNS Impeccable occurred in the weeks immediately following American presidential inaugurations. Both actions seemed calculated to challenge the new presidents in an effort to gauge their reactions and convey a message of Chinese strength and determination early in the new leaders’ terms.…  Seguir leyendo »

Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made some surprising remarks about China and the South China Sea during his recent Senate confirmation hearings. He said the US should “send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

His comments created a furor in the international media as it seems the US might resort to force by blockading the Chinese-occupied features in the South China Sea.

James Mattis, Trump’s defence secretary nominee, was more circumspect in his remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Jan. 11 former Exxon Mobil CEO and now U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state Rex Tillerson was grilled by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding his position on various current international issues. He was pressed by Texas Republican Sen. Marco Rubio regarding his view of recent actions by Russia in Ukraine, Syria and cyberspace. Tillerson wisely — some would say evasively — avoided direct answers repeatedly pleading ignorance and a need for more information.

He should have done the same for questions regarding China’s actions in the South China Sea. Instead he made several intemperate remarks that have alarmed China and the region, including U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rex Tillerson’s cosy relationship with the Russian government was set to be the big controversy of his confirmation hearings to become the next US secretary of state. But it was the subject of Chinese construction in the South China Sea, and his statement that Chinese access to their facilities on the islands is “not going to be allowed”, that held the biggest implications for American foreign policy and security in Asia Pacific.

The suggestion of a more aggressive, interventionist, American regional involvement highlights the pressing task of developing a more independent foreign policy for Australia. A foreign policy which works closely with the US when it is undergirding regional peace and stability, but is willing and equipped to break from it when it is not.…  Seguir leyendo »

For far too long, the United States has stood idly by and allowed the People’s Republic of China to conduct what is charitably described as a massive power grab throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Looking back just a few years ago, such a statement seemed unimaginable. Under the leadership of President Obama, while America has talked about pivoting to Asia with robust rhetoric, we have offered the world’s most economically dynamic and strategically important part of the globe some impressive photo-ops, but little substance to ensure the status-quo — which has allowed Asia to enjoy decades of peace, stability and unparalleled economic opportunity — would be preserved.…  Seguir leyendo »

Controversial Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte appears to have secured a major concession from Beijing in the South China Sea.

It happened quietly last week when China suddenly lifted its four-year blockade of the Scarborough Shoal, allowing Filipino fishermen to freely access the shoal’s plentiful waters.

If it lasts, this will be chalked up as a victory for Duterte’s pivot to China and a geopolitical setback for the United States.
By cozying up to China and trash-talking America, Duterte has achieved something that Washington couldn’t deliver: a peaceful resolution to the Scarborough Shoal standoff.

The significance of this can’t be overstated.

Back in 2012, China seized the Scarborough Shoal by deploying powerful coastguard cutters to evict the Philippine navy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace tres meses, la Corte Permanente de Arbitraje de La Haya dictaminó que no había ningún sustento legal para que China reclamara derechos históricos sobre los recursos del Mar Occidental de Filipinas (también conocido como Mar de la China Meridional) y, en consecuencia, que las Filipinas tienen derechos exclusivos sobre el territorio. China rechazó la sentencia, y un frío glacial empañó la relación bilateral alguna vez amistosa. Es hora de recuperar cierta cordialidad.

Poco después del dictamen, el presidente filipino, Rodrigo Duterte, inesperadamente me designó, a los 88 años, como enviado especial de mi país a China, con ese simple objetivo.…  Seguir leyendo »

El mar del Sur de China es el Mediterráneo del este de Asia. Por sus aguas transita el 70% del comercio -incluidos productos energéticos, como gas y petróleo- de la zona, lo que representa un tercio del comercio mundial, y como vía de conexión entre el Índico y el Pacífico tiene valor estratégico fundamental. El 12 de julio, la Corte Permanente de Arbitraje (CPA) asestó un duro golpe en las pretensiones chinas de controlar buena parte de esas aguas. Pekín, que reivindica el 80% de los 3,5 millones de kilómetros cuadrados de esa superficie, baraja cómo encajar la bofetada jurídica.El panel de cinco expertos en Derecho Internacional Marítimo de este desconocido organismo -fundado en 1899, dormido entre 1946 y 1990 y con 121 países miembros– falló por unanimidad a favor de 14 de las 15 demandas interpuestas por Filipinas contra los «derechos históricos» chinos.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Obama should not let slide his last summit meeting with Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) leader Xi Jinping, who needs to hear that he is pitching Asia toward war and that the United States will finish what he starts.

Of course, China hopes to avoid such complaints during the September 4-5 G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, China. But as China appears ready to increase its aggressive pressures against its neighbors there is little time to set clear red lines and to prepare for conflict so as to better deter it.

Following the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Council for Arbitration in The Hague that China’s expansive Nine-Dash-Line, and specifically its newly reclaimed island military base on Mischief Reef, are both illegal under the Law of the Sea Treaty, it is now necessary for the United States to declare that China’s actions in the South China Sea are a threat to peace in Asia.…  Seguir leyendo »

On 12th July 2016, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at The Hague ruled that Chinese claims to territorial rights in the South China Sea have no legal basis, after a case was brought to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2013 by the Philippines. The tension in the South China Sea is at a fever pitch, with China vowing that it “will take all necessary measures to protect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,”[i] countered by the U.S. sending an aircraft carrier and fighter jets to the region. This ruling certainly does not mark the end of the South China Sea dispute.…  Seguir leyendo »

As China builds toward its ambition of becoming the world’s military hegemon, it is important to pause and consider how its virulent reaction to the July 12 Permanent Court of Arbitration’s denial of its “historic” claims to the South China Sea previews how “Pax Sinica” will threaten democracies.

To thwart China’s military and anti-democratic ambitions, it is now critical that the United States lead its Asian allies in devising a South China Sea strategy that militarily secures its regions vital to the U.S. and its allies.

For decades Communist China has insisted that its claims to most of the South China Sea are based on its “historic” “nine-dash line” that it inherited from the previous Nationalist regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

It has long been routine to find in both China’s official news organizations and its social media a barrage of anti-American comment, but rarely has it reached quite the intensity and fury of the last few days. There have been calls from citizens on the country’s social media platforms to boycott KFC, Starbucks, and the iPhone 7, accusations against the US of waging a new “war” against China, and threats that the Philippines, a close US ally, will be turned into a Chinese province. All of this is in response to the July 12 ruling against China by the Law of the Sea Tribunal in the Hague, which found Beijing to be engaging in a host of illegal actions and violations of international law as it has pressed its territorial claims in the South China Sea.…  Seguir leyendo »

The South China Sea (SCS) is currently the focus of a dispute between the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The PRC has preemptively deployed military personnel and equipment to enforce their claims to a trumped-up, self-identified but unrecognized “nine-dash line,” an imagined boundary that is inconsistent with international law and commonly accepted international behavior.

The PRC has diverted significant dollar equivalents of capital from its faltering economy that would have been better invested in educating and providing health care to Chinese citizens, to build approximately 3,000 acres of military bases on a variety of dredged coral reefs hosting 9,800-foot-long runways, combat aircraft, surface-to-air missiles and other weaponry.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tuesday’s ruling by the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea has bought a little clarity to the problems in the South China Sea, but it has not made solving the underlying problems significantly simpler.

In a bad day for China, the Tribunal ruled that Beijing’s ‘nine-dash line’ (its claim to between 60% and 90% of the waters of the South China Sea) had no legal basis because China’s claims of ‘historic rights’ to the waters of the Sea had been rendered invalid when it signed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The judgement went on to say that none of the Spratlys, a chain of reefs and rocks at the southern end of the South China Sea where China has recently built seven installations, were ‘islands’ and therefore did not generate any territorial or economic rights regardless of who occupied them.…  Seguir leyendo »

El tribunal arbitral presidido por el juez Thomas A. Mensah ha decidido sobre la demanda presentada por Filipinas contra China en relación con las actividades de ésta en el mar de China meridional. La reclamación filipina tiene su origen en los incidentes del arrecife de las Scarborough en 2012, cuando buques chinos expulsaron a los pescadores filipinos que allí faenaban. Pero los conflictos en el mar de China meridional no son nuevos. Son múltiples los problemas territoriales que enfrentan a China con la práctica totalidad de esos países, fundamentalmente Vietnam, Malasia, Filipinas y Brunei, en las islas Spratly, y Taiwán y Vietnam, en las Paracel.…  Seguir leyendo »

China has taken a leap towards clarifying its claims in the South China Sea, but in a direction that could intensify frictions.

The International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea delivered a sweeping ruling Tuesday against China in an arbitration case initiated by the Philippines. The result significantly limits the size of the maritime zones and scope of maritime rights that China can legally claim. Minutes later, the Chinese government issued a statement. In it, China stakes claims to sovereignty over all land features in the South China Sea, as well as entitlement to internal waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf based on these islands, as well as historic rights in unspecified waters.…  Seguir leyendo »

The ruling by an arbitral tribunal of five members based in The Hague was simple and devastating. It declares that ‘China’s claims to historic rights… with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the “nine-dash line” are contrary to the [The UN] Convention [on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS]’. This is a result that Southeast Asia’s maritime countries have long sought. The way is now clear to resolve all the disputes in the region, if the participants choose to do so.

For decades, countries around the South China Sea lived under the shadow of a quasi-territorial claim that no one really understood.…  Seguir leyendo »