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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs