News / Asia

China, Philippines Intensify War of Words Over S. China Sea

Filipino fishermen wave from a fishing boat bound to fish near Scarborough Shoal in Masinloc, Zambales May 10, 2012.Filipino fishermen wave from a fishing boat bound to fish near Scarborough Shoal in Masinloc, Zambales May 10, 2012.
x
Filipino fishermen wave from a fishing boat bound to fish near Scarborough Shoal in Masinloc, Zambales May 10, 2012.
Filipino fishermen wave from a fishing boat bound to fish near Scarborough Shoal in Masinloc, Zambales May 10, 2012.
Daniel Schearf
BANGKOK - A recent flare-up between China and the Philippines about a disputed island has renewed tensions surrounding South China Sea territories. The spat has also highlighted a July deadline for agreement on a code of conduct in the sea between China and Southeast Asian nations.

On Thursday, China’s state media said most Chinese travel agencies suspended trips to the Philippines in an escalating and nationalistic war of words over a disputed island chain. China also issued a safety warning to its citizens in the Philippines because of anti-China protests expected this weekend.

Foreign affairs spokesman Hong Lei on Thursday demanded the Philippines ensure that Chinese citizens are safe. The Philippines side encouraged people both at home and abroad to launch demonstrations against China, he said, warning authorities to take measures to protect the safety of Chinese nationals and institutions in the Philippines.

The rising tension came from a face-off last month after a Philippine warship tried to stop Chinese fishing boats in the Scarborough Shoal, but were stopped by surveillance ships from China.

The rocky islands, known as Huangyan in China, are in the South China Sea, about 230 kilometers northwest of the Philippines.

Manila says the shoal is within its exclusive economic zone while Beijing claims not only those islands but almost all the territory in the South China Sea.

That puts China in conflict with other claims in mineral and fishing-rich areas by Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
​Political analysts say Beijing’s argued sovereignty of the region is weak because it is based on historic claims rather than international law.


Carl Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defense Academy, points out that a map China gave the United Nations in 2009 that justified its territorial claims had nine unconnected lines drawn in the sea.
 

“[Un]til China comes clear about what the nine dash lines mean and how they would be connected, and how the claims [are] under international law -- but they claim historic rights. Well, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea came recently. So, you can’t go back and say back when we had historic rights, we also claimed international law because it didn’t exist. So, we’re still stuck on the Chinese ambiguity. Some argue that it’s calculated. It suits China to keep everybody guessing," Thayer said.

Conflicts among claimants in the sea are not new and have, in the past, involved arrests of Chinese and Vietnamese fishermen and even brief naval battles in the 1970s between China and Vietnam.

But worries are growing about the possibility of greater conflict as China asserts its power and influence to claim resources and the United Sates backs up its ally, the Philippines, with increased arms sales.

To ease tensions, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has for more than a decade been negotiating details on a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

The regional grouping has set a deadline for reaching an agreement in July, when Thailand will become the ASEAN-China coordinator.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said Thailand, as a non-claimant, is in a good position to act as an arbiter, but is coming under pressure from both Beijing and ASEAN.

“China prefers to deal with ASEAN on a bilateral basis," said Thitinan. "And, ASEAN itself does not have a single, common position on the South China Sea. So, we will see from Beijing, most likely, a kind of divide and deal posture. At the same time the ASEAN countries, especially the claimant countries - particularly The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia - they will want ASEAN to come up with a common position. And, this will put some
pressure on Thailand.”

Political analysts say the Philippines and Vietnam are pushing for a binding code of conduct that also clarifies geographic claims in the sea while China wants a weaker and ambiguous declaration.

ASEAN’s ten member nations make decisions based only on consensus and China must also accept the agreement. That makes a clear and enforceable code less likely and a watered down list of principles like the 2002 Declaration of Conduct, or DOC, said Thayer.

“If it’s not going to have what the Philippines wants as an enforcement mechanism, it doesn’t have a status as a treaty, it’s not going to be any more binding than the DOC, which, when you get down to the bottom, makes a net assessment, is nothing more than a political declaration of voluntary activities.”

ASEAN’s other members include Burma, Indonesia, Laos and Singapore.

You May Like

Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More