News / Asia

South China Sea Dispute Poses Challenge for US

President Barack Obama begins his second term facing fresh tensions in the South China Sea as the Philippines takes its maritime dispute with China to the United Nations.

China's navy patrols the disputed waters. The Philippines rejects Chinese authority over the area.

"We want the arbitral tribunal to establish the rights of the Philippines to exclusively exploit the resources in our continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea," Philippine Assistant Foreign Affairs Secretary Gilbert Asuque explained.

China says Manila's move complicates the dispute. 

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters," insisted Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei. "The root of the dispute is caused by the Philippines' illegal occupation of some of the Chinese areas."

Justin Logan at the Cato Institute says involving the United Nations runs counter to how China wants to handle the issue.

"The Chinese have been trying as much as possible to keep this bilateral between itself and all the disputed parties and to prevent it from being internationalized in a systematic way," noted Logan.

Even if the U.N. Law of the Sea tribunal rules in favor of Manila, Logan questions who would enforce the decision.

"If enforcing findings means a shooting war with China, you may see findings that go unenforced," Logan said. "It may be a bargaining a chip that the Philippines say: 'Look, the balance is sort of tipping away from us. We can play this card and then have something that we can appear to give up if China makes a concession.'"

Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea were part of confirmation hearings for John Kerry, President Obama's choice as secretary of state. Republican Senator Marco Rubio questioned the administration's handling of the standoff.

"China is being increasingly aggressive about their territorial claims and their neighbors are looking to the United States and U.S. leadership as a counter balance," Rubio said.

Senator Kerry said China is reacting to more U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific.

"The Chinese take a look at that and say, 'What's the United States doing? Are they trying to circle us? What's going on?'" noted Kerry.
Given China's disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, and other Asian countries, Kerry says it is critical that Washington strengthen ties with Beijing.

"China is the other significant economy in the world and obviously has a voracious appetite for resources around the world, and we need to establish rules of the road that work for everybody," Kerry said.

China says it is working to resolve the rival claims through dialogue but opposes U.S. support of greater involvement by an alliance of South East Asian nations.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Facts from: Canada
February 23, 2013 2:02 PM
Do you know that Taiwan has undeniable sovereignty of the largest island in the South China Sea ? This is the only island in the chain that has natural fresh water, thus it is qualified as habitable. Do you know what this mean? Do any of your maps show this fact ?
You may hope Philippine can justify its claim based on some unknown maps. Good luck to you. You need it.

by: Skampilan
February 20, 2013 2:47 PM
Check out the European maps of the 1600's. You'll see that Spratlys and Scarborough shoal was part of the Philippines. Even the Republic of Venice acknowledges it. For almost a hundred years Scarborough was a mere gunnery range by the Americans and now it is part of China? Since when? 2009 when they found out there is gas? Historically none of those were part of China. It was part of the Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah. China never came down that far because they'll have their head cut off. Don't change the history. Wiki leaks just busted your big lie. Wiki said that China admitted that they don't have a leg to stand on on this concocted 9 dash line scam claim.

by: FairPlay from: Canada
February 04, 2013 2:59 PM
@ Leche:
Do you know that UNCLOS and EEZ are not recognized by US? If you want to use the EEZ to justify claiming the land within 200 miles from the shore, good luck to you.
Do you know that your two remote northmost islands in the South China Sea are within Taiwan’s 200 mile EEZ? If you can claim S. Shoal, Taiwan can your two islands too.

by: Kill Greedy Chinese from: Spratly Island
February 01, 2013 12:46 AM
Bilateral Talk is not applicable to a Giant vs. Small nation. The United nation should take action to help smaller nations gain fair negotiation. China's position is pure sign of BULLYING.. Just trying to irritate nations to go war against them because they knew victory is in their side compared to smaller nations in South East Asia.
In Response

by: Fran
February 04, 2013 1:55 PM
You are assuming that your country has the land feature that they grabbed from China. You cannot use the EEZ to justify claiming the land that is existing before you and your country is born.
Philippine has tried to use military force on civilians. China is only responding. Now who is the bully? You are badly biased and brainwashed by propaganda. No point discussing with you firther.
In Response

by: Leche Fran from: Scarborough Shoal
February 03, 2013 3:51 AM
@Fran: Philippine Navy ships trying to enforce Philippine laws well within the Philippines' 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone is NOT bullying. Chinese government ships preventing Philippine navy ships from doing their job by denying them freedom of navigation, even if they are well within the Philippines' EEZ, is definitely BULLYING. Yes, the PRC is a bully.
In Response

by: Fran
February 02, 2013 3:42 PM
It is not sheer size; it is justice. Did you ever say Philippine is a bully when the Flip WARSHIP harassed some Chinese fishermen last April? Your name suggests you are completely biased. There is no point discussing with someone with such mentality.

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
January 31, 2013 2:41 PM
Chinas territorial expansion after World War II is well known. China occupied Manchuria in 1947, Xinjiang of Turkemenistan in 1948, Tibet in 1950, Aksai Chin and Karakoran Tract of India in 1962. Currently China has territorial disputes with (1) India regarding Arunachal Pradesh, Demchok or New Danchok Sector, Uttarkhand, and Ladak, (2) Vietnam regarding the Paracels Islands, (3) Philippines regarding Scarborough Reef, (4)
Japan regarding Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands or Pinacle Islands,
(5) Malaysia regarding Spartlys Islands, (6) Taiwan because of Chinese claim of Taiwan as part of China, (7) Brunei regarding Spratly Island, and (8) US regarding the territotorial claim of China for the whole South China Sea.

The US has to stand up to the intimidations of China in the South China Sea not just because of national interests of the US but also to stop China's bullying of defenseless ASEAN countries.

with North Korea regarding the islands in the Yalu and Tumen rivers,
In Response

by: Fran from: Canada
January 31, 2013 4:20 PM
Another China basher. How much do you know about Chinese histroy? Where else do you learn about China except from anti-China propaganda?

by: robin from: massachusetts
January 30, 2013 8:40 PM
the world has to punish china for what it has done,and the US is the first one to say it, the US must stay with the righteousness.Look what the Chinese has done.First, they did not own those islands, they took away by force such as they invaded Tibet ,then now they say Tibet is their country.It is outrageous, but the US keeps silence.The US should not silence anymore,because the world is with us.The time is now or never.If China wants war, give them hell.
In Response

by: Danny from: Shanghai
January 30, 2013 11:59 PM
Poor Robine, how much do you know the history of this region & China? Fairly, did you ever read any history book in relevance, written by whoever?

by: Tuan from: USA
January 30, 2013 12:40 PM
In respond to johnathon Huang, a greedy Chinese. Bring your evidence to UN Court. The fact is China used military force to kill the fishermen and occupy Spratly and Paracel islands. Vietnam and Philippine have no capabilties to invade China. China is afraid the dispute internationalized. We have peace until China gets in the region. China is imitating old bad Japanese Imperial to invade South Chia Sea.
In Response

by: Fran from: Canada
January 31, 2013 4:12 PM
@ Hoang
You have twisted the facts. I say it again. The islands were returned to Taiwan shortly after WW2 that ended in 1945. Now in effect you agreed that Vietnam took control of, or more exactly stole, some of the smaller islands in 1973. Your reference to some ancient maps is totally ridiculous. Numerous maps show that the islands are Chinese territory. Even your late communist party leader has written and signed a document to say that the islands belong to China. Your accusation that Taiwan took Taiping island, which is the largest in the island chain is deplorable. Do you know that Taiping Island is thousands of miles from Taiwan? Only fools will believe your words. No country, including China and USA can stop Vietnam to take the dispute to UN. Vietnam does not do that because Vietnam knows it will lose the case.
In Response

by: Hoang from: Canada
January 31, 2013 12:53 PM
To Fran
Get your facts right and don't distort history. Paracel(Hoang Sa) and Spratly(Truong Sa) were under control of South Vietnam in 1973. Vietnam administered these island since 17th century and have ancient Chinese maps to prove it. China invaded Hoang Sa and Taiwan sneakily took control of largest island of Truong Sa from south Vietnam in 1973 at the end of Vietnam war when Paris Peace Accord in 1973 left South Vietnam without support from U.S. How come China doesn't want to go to U.N. tribunal but prefer to bully its smaller and weaker neighbours?
In Response

by: Fran from: Canada
January 31, 2013 11:49 AM
@ Tuan: Are you ignorant of the fact that Vietnam has occupied most of the islands in the South China Sea. Philippine is just slightly behind Vietnam. To give you the history: Spratly and Paracel islands is just a part of the South China Sea. The islands have different names in Chinese history dating back to thousand years. During WW2, South China Sea was a major Jap/USA war zone. At the conclusion of the war, USA returned the SCS together with all the land features to Republic of China (Taiwan) who is the rightful owner.

But Taiwan, having internal trouble at that time, could only afford to station guards on the largest island in the South China Sea. The greedy neighbors, like Vietnam and Philippine sneakily managed to grab most of the islands from Taiwan. Both Taiwan and mainland China have been weak and not assertive enough in the past several decades to reclaim their loss. The truth has been hidden long enough by anti-China propaganda and some evil media . It a about time for the world to see the true picture.

by: Henry from: New York
January 30, 2013 10:34 AM
Everytime I read the comment sections about China and its dispute in the SCS. I see plenty that side with Philippines and Vietnam over China because the disputed islands are closer to them. However, I don't see them siding with Taiwan or China and their proximity to Diaoyu/Senkakus in ECS. The hypocrisy dont just end at proximity of the disputed islands because the argument of proximity is not a basis for sovereignty. China is labeled automatically as a bully because its current naval might but when China's navy was comically weak in the 60s and the 70s. It had the same claims in the SCS as it did now. No one seems to acknowledge that fact.

Taiwan is a democratic country with its rightful claim in the SCS with Taiping Island. Establish sovereignty since 1956, therefore 200 nautical EEZ should apply to them but Vietnam and Philippines govt are completely ignoring that fact. Funny that the Japanese govt supports the Philippines in their proximity argument with China. However, the Japanese simply ignored the fact that Diaoyu is less than 100 miles from Taiwan.

The harsh reality is that geopolitics and economic/military might will always dictate the outcome of these disputes. China is growing and ever hungrier for the black gold. The bottomline is who is willing to use its advantages to enforce their will.

by: Wright from: USA
January 30, 2013 1:27 AM
It looks like John Kerry played chicken with greedy China.
Since when China has indisputable sovereignty over the island thousand miles from mainland China? The East China Sea is more than big enough for China. Southeast Asia countries has only that much sea to share with each others. China should stay out of it.
If only china plays fair, then we don't have any problem.

by: Wu from: Singapore
January 29, 2013 8:19 PM
China comes to its neighbor's sea and says: Hey this is my sea. If china is powerful enough, it will come to San Francisco and say: Hey this is my land.
China is the source of all evil for the world.
Since when Spratly and Paracel island belong to China?
China pretends that they don't see its neighbors have lived on the islands and just claims the islands.
China avoids internationalized the dispute because they know that they are so wrong and want other nations played their dirty rules.
In Response

by: JL
January 30, 2013 3:08 PM
I am 100 percent agreed with Mr. Wu: Japan, Philippines, and Vietnam have exposed China real motives and intentions for the world to see. China is a threat to region and the world and must be contain and break up. Tibet return to Tibetans and Ughuri return to Ughurs. Northern part of China return to Mongols.
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