Beijing, Manila try new model to solve maritime disputes

By Zhang Yi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/30 23:38:39

China has invited Philippine officials for a visit to start negotiations on a bilateral consultation mechanism on their maritime disputes in May, which may usher in a new era in the South China Sea. The future of the Asian security architecture will benefit mostly from the consultation.

Bilateral relations between Beijing and Manila experienced a rocky period amid territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The ties dropped to a low ebb after the Philippine administration led by then President Benigno Aquino III unilaterally brought the dispute to the international court of arbitration in 2013 which ruled against China in July last year.

However, while many expected to see the choppy waters in the South China Sea continue, new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made clear that he would not "taunt or flaunt" the ruling. What the international community has observed is the gradually warming of ties between the two. Last October, Duterte made a high-profile visit to China, which was interpreted as a move to reboot his country's relations with China.

If there is something that binds China and the Philippines together, it is pragmatism. Both know that they cannot afford a war, and denying the opportunity of negotiation does no good to each side or the entire region.

China has long proposed a dual-track approach to address the issue, which means disputes related to the South China Sea should be addressed through negotiation and consultation among the countries directly concerned, and China and ASEAN countries should work together on regional security issues.

Some regional countries rely on external powers such as the US for security, but often find themselves in a bind when they try to balance this security shelter with economic dependence on China. While Washington holds tight to its dominance in the region, a stuttering regional order serves its interests more.

That China and the Philippines decided to talk on the maritime dispute on a bilateral basis may serve for further bilateral consultation mechanisms between those with conflicting maritime claims such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, all of whom are ASEAN members. In the middle of this year, China will work with ASEAN member states to finalize a framework for the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, a move to show its commitment to regional peace and stability.

Asia will face a precarious future unless regional stakeholders exercise cohesion and integration and solve internal disputes by themselves. As China believes, Asia's security should rely on Asians.

Posted in: OBSERVER

blog comments powered by Disqus