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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid