News / Asia

    US-China Tensions Flare Over South China Sea Dispute

    Tensions are growing between the United States and China after Washington weighed in on territorial disputes between China and Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea.  

    China lays claim to maritime territories in the sea along with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.  While most of the territory consists of small islands, boulders, and strips of sand, some of them are believed to be rich in oil and gas.  

    China, and the other disputing nations, have been developing tourism to some islands in order to justify their territorial claims.

    Rough patch

    Relations between China and the United States hit a rough patch after Washington offered to help resolve the decades-long dispute. Beijing described Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's suggestion to use collaborative diplomacy to resolve the thorny issue as interference and fear-mongering.

    Clinton, in Hanoi for regional security meetings, said the U.S. was willing to help facilitate multilateral dialogue on the disputes.  She said they should be resolved without coercion, threats, or the use of force.

    "The United States, like every nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia' maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea," said Clinton.

    China's Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, this week condemned her remarks as an attempt to internationalize disputes that China wants addressed bilaterally.  

    He issued a statement saying the comments were an attack on China designed to give the international community what he called "a wrong impression" that the situation in the South China Sea is a cause for grave concern.

    The fiery words built on tensions over U.S.-South Korean military exercises in the Sea of Japan and Washington's arms sales to Taiwan, which led Beijing to suspend military exchanges with the U.S.  Beijing says Taiwan is Chinese territory that must one day be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

    Naval dispute

    Last year, Chinese ships harassed a U.S. navy vessel in international waters off the southern Chinese island of Hainan.  China claims the ship was in its territory without permission.  Also last year, a Chinese submarine, apparently following a U.S. navy ship, collided with a sonar array it was towing near the Philippines.

    In March, China declared the South China Sea a "core interest" of its sovereignty, raising concerns in Southeast Asia.

    Carl Thayer, professor of politics at Australia's University of New South Wales, points out that tensions have been growing in the region, especially between China and Vietnam.

    "China has been declaring unilateral fishing bans over the last two years, chasing out Vietnamese boats, seizing their catches, fining them, holding fishermen hostage until fines are paid, seizing equipment and catches, declaring administrative control over islands," said Thayer. "It's done a whole series of activities that violate the letter and spirit of the declaration of conduct which encourages parties not to undertake unilateral actions, including naval maneuvers in the region."

    Defensive strategy

    Thayer also said China's naval build-up on Hainan and aggressive defense of its territorial claims is also raising concerns that Beijing intends to project its growing power.  In response, he said, some nations are building up their own defensive capabilities.

    "It's caused Southeast Asian states, Singapore, which had submarines to acquire new, more modern ones; Malaysia to acquire the Scorpene Submarines when it had none; Indonesia, which has postponed for financial reasons, to say it wants them; Australia's White Paper last year arguing for twelve more conventional submarine; and remarkably, Vietnam's contract to sign on for six kilo-class submarines, which are the most modern, conventional ones," Thayer said.

    Washington's involvement in the South China Sea dispute was welcomed by Vietnam, which fought navy battles with China in the mid 1970s and late 1980s over the Paracel and Spratly island chains.   

    Commercial interests

    China in 2002 signed a declaration of conduct in the South China Sea with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, agreeing to resolve the disputes peacefully.  

    ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan last week said keeping the South China Sea's important shipping lanes open, safe, and secure is in the best interest for all parties.  He said more than 85 percent of energy resources shipped to China, Japan, and South Korea come from or through Southeast Asia via the South China Sea.

    "Because, it is really a lifeline of our commerce of our transport, for all of us.  China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia, and the countries beyond to the west," he said.

    The territorial disputes have not interfered with trade but commercial interests have been affected.  U.S. officials say China has been pressuring western oil companies not to work with Vietnam in disputed areas, threatening that their business interests in China could suffer.

    Carl Thayer of Australia's University of New South Wales thinks U.S. involvement will balance China's power in the South China Sea and help ensure that international law remains the focus of resolving disputes rather than historical claims.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.