News / Asia

China's Claims on South China Sea Grow Challenge for ASEAN, World

China's Claims on South China Sea Growing Challenge for ASEAN, Worldi
December 25, 2012 7:13 PM
China's increasing assertiveness about disputed territory in the South China Sea is posing a major challenge to unity in the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations. ASEAN summits this year in Cambodia failed to negotiate a much anticipated “code of conduct” and exposed splits between members. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Bangkok that indications are the competition for the resource-rich region is heating up.
Daniel Schearf
China's increasing assertiveness about disputed territory in the South China Sea is posing a major challenge to unity in the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations.  ASEAN summits this year in Cambodia failed to negotiate a much anticipated “code of conduct” and exposed splits between members. Indications are the competition for the resource-rich region is heating up.

Protests in Vietnam against China, as it asserts claim for almost all the South China Sea, an area rich in oil, gas, and fish.

New Chinese passports feature maps staking claims to much of the region. Authorities also have declared the right to stop and search ships in disputed waters.

Violation of international law

Philippines foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez says that would violate international law.

" We will have problems with freedom of navigation and also lawful commerce," he said. "This would be a threat to all countries, not only in the region, but to all those countries that use these sea lanes of communication."

In April, ships from the Philippines and China had a tense two-month stand-off about  fishing grounds in the Scarborough Shoals.

China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, criticizes harassment of Chinese fishermen and Vietnam's exploration with India of disputed resources. 

"China opposes unilateral oil and gas development in disputed waters of the South China Sea. We hope that concerned countries respect China's position and rights," he said.

Beijing has avoided discussing the issue with the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations, despite overlapping claims with four of its ten members - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam - as well as China and Taiwan.

ASEAN summits this year in Cambodia saw the host agree with China in quashing negotiations on a decade-old code of conduct in the South China Sea aimed at preventing conflict.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa cautions all parties against escalation, which he says appear aimed at preempting negotiations.

"They want to have a head start by having situations on the ground or situations at sea before that eventuality come about," he said. "And, this is what we need to … caution against.  Because, then we will have a tit-for-tat type of situation."

Increasing tensions

ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan says increasing tensions have complicated attempts for a peaceful solution.

"We have to be an honest broker.  We have to be a neutral mechanism, effective mechanism of balancing various contending and competing interests who claim that they have legitimate interests in the issue," he said.

President Barack Obama, for the first time joined the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh as part of the  U.S. pivot to Asia. The increasing American  presence in the region is welcomed by many as a counter-balance to China's influence.

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Comment Sorting
by: Henry Winn from: USA
December 26, 2012 7:19 AM
The Chinese continued escalation of hostilities in the South China Sea have not only placed this waterway in danger of regional armed conflicts, but also drew in superpowers participation with grave consequences. Their criminal and lawless acts must be called out and addressed by ASEAN immediately to prevent further damages.

Diplomatic niceties such as cautioning all claimants equally for the worsening condition or request for ASEAN to be neutral , are not working nor respected by China. Why cautions all claimants when no other country but China claimed the whole ocean, printed disputed map on their passport, violated COC and UNCLOS, attacked neighbors, bought out ASEAN chair Cambodia, hindered freedom of navigation...? How can ASEAN be neutral when its strategic sea is violated by a non-ASEAN and 1/2 of its members are under attack by China? Will the next COC help when the 2002 COC has not prevented China from stationing and building more military presence freely and causing an armed throughout the whole region?

The only working solution must involve non-China reconciled agreement by Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam using UNCLOS formula of EEZ rights, internationally assisted enforcement by UN and economic penalties to China if not complied. A bully China has used forces and only understands the language of stronger forces. Any response without the threat of united forces will not change their aggressive acts and with more time given, they may even become stronger and more bold. ASEAN and the civilized international communities must act now.
In Response

by: Ian from: USA
December 26, 2012 2:17 PM
Unfortunately, Chinese government already inserted a guy with the name Wang Hanling as an expert for Special Arbitration as well as a consultant into (DOALOS) the Division of Ocean affairs and law of the sea of the office for the Legal Affairs of the United Nations. So how much fairness do you think the outcome would be with the "fox guarding a hen house" scenario ? China planned every cunning move ahead of time , that is why you see a blatant bought off behavior of Cambodia recently during the Asean gathering .
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 26, 2012 2:10 PM
@Henry Winn from: USA, then tell me why the US ally and democratic Taiwan has exactly the same claim as China's on south China sea and Diaoyu island?

Fact is Fact, South China sea is Chinese property.

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
December 26, 2012 3:25 AM
South china sea belongs to China for sure. Or why Taiwan has exactly the same claim as China? It is because South China sea belonged to China for a long period of history.
China is not being aggressive because China didn't ask one inch more than Taiwan did. China just simply inherited the property. Everyone should respect China's rights! Thanks!
In Response

by: Henry Winn from: USA
December 26, 2012 8:55 PM
The Chinese and Taiwanese claims are the same because they both originated from an 11 dash map of South China Sea, drew by the nationalist Chinese in 1947. The drawing was based on mostly recollected accounts of Chinese maritime merchants who traveled extensively throughout South East Asia and beyond. It was not meant to be a claim of ownership until some Chinese scholars found thousand years old records of general description for this waterway.

Official ancient Chinese map, however never included South China Sea as part of Chinese territory. All Chinese maps before 1947 showed the southern most point of China is Hainan island. Regardless, no country can claim the whole sea for themselves and Chinese neighbors, international law experts rejected this map and this claim all along. That's also why China and Taiwan refuse to join their neighbors at UNCLOS court for arbitration.

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