Looming war over South China Sea?


Another Brick in the Wall

While everyone was victoriously celebrating the end of Ramadhan, Foreign Minister Dato Anifah Aman must be the most nervous person in the country.

He seemed to be enjoying himself engaging in small talks and diplomatically entertaining the visitors at the cabinet open house on the first day of Raya and few days later, back in his kawasan in Kimanis, but his mind was elsewhere.

Anifah is nervous of the outcome of the tribunal convened by the International Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague as initiated by the Philippines against China on Jan 22, 2013 following the tense standoff between the naval vessels of the two countries at Scarborough shoal in 2012.

Vietnam has dispute with China over the Paracel island.

The ruling favoured the Philippines but either way, the outcome of PCA will not offer an immediate solution to the territorial dispute on the South China Sea claimed by China, Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei. It could heightened tension within the region.

China made known earlier that it will not abide by the ruling of the PCA and will not negotiate with Philippines based on the arbitration ruling. [Read Chinanews.com here].

They boycotted the hearing claiming it has no jurisdiction on the matter. In an arbitration proceeding, China is entitled to choose a representative in the tribunal but they refused. They also disputed the choice of a Japanese judge to preside the proceeding and cited bias as reason.

China have been holding navy games in the South China Sea area preceding the ruling. They claim it is part of their annual plan.

On the diplomatic front, China offer negotiation with Philippines with areas of cooperation in joint development and scientific research should it chose to ignore the ruling. Philippines responded with a willingness to share even if it wins the legal challenge.

AFP reported that China is enraged with Philippines arbitration proceeding and US military presence in the disputed area.

US destroyers have sailed close to Mischief reef, where China have been putting up military installation. The American aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan have been stationed at the South China Sea since early July. [Read The Hindu here]

Time.com reported two US aircraft carrier is streaming to the Pacific. Admiral John Richardson, the U.S. chief of naval operations said, “We don’t get to do two-carrier operations very often.”

U.S. Naval War College Chinese expert Andrew Erickson viewed ” all parties concerned must prevent China from grabbing with coercion or force what it could not—and now clearly cannot—obtain legally.”

China propaganda machine have been on overdrive and whipping up national sentiment.  [Read The Star here]

China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming was quoted by Reuters to have said, “We do not know, we don’t care, in fact, when this arbitration decision will be made, because no matter what kind of decision this tribunal is going to make, we think it is totally wrong.

“It has no impact on China, on China’s sovereignty over these reefs, over the islands. And it will set a serious, wrong and bad example. We will not fight this case in court, but we will certainly fight for our sovereignty.”

Liu also commented on countries in alliance with the US in this dispute, “They probably believe that they have America (behind them) and they can get a better deal with China. So I’m very suspicious of America’s motives.”

Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University said,  “This is about exposing Washington’s declining primacy.

“China gains reputational power by showing the US that it can’t dictate Chinese actions.”