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: Tuan from: USA
January 29, 2013 7:38 PM
China is never be a good neighbor to live with.
China is harassing small countries like Philippine, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.
China clained all the islands in the region that they never lived on. Those islands are in the front yards of the ASEAN countries. In the 1970's China used military force to invade and kill the people that lived on those islands. China has committed murder crime.
China has imitated the old bad Japanese Imperial military in WWII. Shame on China!
In Response

by: Fran from: Canada
January 31, 2013 12:24 PM
You cannot use proximity to justify land ownership. At best you are only 20% correct that there was a military conflict between China and Vietnam in the 1972. It was about some uninhibited reefs where the vietnamese navy was defected. No civilian casualty was involved. So please stop posting false accusations.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
January 29, 2013 10:16 PM
@Tuan from: USA
tell me why US ally democratic Taiwan also claims Diaoyu island and the whole south China sea?
Why Taiwan's claim has no one inch difference from China's?
Why ROC(Taiwan) published the sea map including whole south China sea in 1947?
If you cant answer those questions, then please stop posting your ignorant comments here! Thanks!

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
January 29, 2013 2:02 PM
The assertions made by China, and its demonstration of force, by sending war ships/aircraft to conflict points, has started the arms race no one needs. We are seeing raising defense budgets in Asia. Japan was one of the last to announce defense budget increases. It is clear that the reaction to China's demands is in fact scareing everyone in the neigborhoud. It is unfortunate, but an arms race, with all the associated risks, does not appear to be avoidable.
In Response

by: Fran from: Canada
February 01, 2013 11:01 AM
To be fair, the arms race, if you like to call it, is triggered by a change of foreign policy by a superpower outside of the region.
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