South China Sea chaos would only add to global woes

By Zhao Minghao Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/12 14:27:57

Since the final award of the South China Sea arbitration at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague was released on Tuesday, the entire world has been concerned about new potential storms in the waters.

Over the past few months, Washington increased its military deployment and actions in the region. Apart from US Navy aircraft carrier battle group of USS John C. Stennis, which have always been in the South China Sea, USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group has also entered the area from Japan's Yokosuka naval port. Moreover, USS Stethem, USS Spruance and USS Momsen have all patrolled near the islands claimed by Beijing, including the Huangyan Island. Virginia-class submarine and USS Mississippi have begun their patrols in the West Pacific, even if no one knows their exact positions.

In the meantime, China launched military exercises involving over a hundred fleets in the Xisha Islands. Three navy groups took part in the drills, and four navy Admirals commended it. The exercises focused on air control operations, sea battles and anti-submarine warfare. Although China deliberately chose a non-disputed area for the drill, still it is considered as a menacing message to the US.

Arguments are going on within ASEAN about whether to issue a joint statement on the final award of the arbitration.

Not long ago, Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the Natuna Islands and claimed the country would speed up natural gas and fishing development there. At the end of June, the country's parliament approved increasing its defense budget by 10 percent, which will be used to upgrade military facilities in the Natuna Islands. Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines are also discussing joint military exercise in the South China Sea.

Undoubtedly, amid growing military actions in the waters, tensions in the South China Sea have made a great number of people worried. After the award is announced, the situation might even get worse. Each side should hence exercise their restraint to avoid escalation of uncontrollable clashes.

Taking a look around, the Middle East is suffering from turmoil, the European crisis is worsening due to the very recent Brexit, and the just concluded Warsaw NATO Summit showed the enormous hostility between the West and Russia.

Under such circumstances, if disputes over the South China Sea eventually breach stability in the West Pacific, or lead to armed clashes between Beijing and Washington, the world will end up in desperate. In that case, no one will be the winner.

The US has played a crucial role in exacerbating the South China Sea issue. In 2010, then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton changed US attitude over the waters. She advocated the Philippines to take a tougher stance toward China. In her trip to Manila, she displayed implicit US backing for the Philippines' territorial claims by referring to the "South China Sea" with "West Philippines Sea."

In April 2012, the Philippine navy made a provocative arrest of Chinese fishermen who were working in the Huangyan Island by fleet bought from the US. In January 2013, Manila filed the arbitration case against China under Washington's encouragement, regardless of China's objection and the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Nowadays, the new Philippine government is not willing to be a cat's paw of the US. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday last week that even if the award is in favor of Manila, he will prepare for direct talks with China. "We are not prepared to go to war. War is a dirty word now," he said.

At the moment, every nation should provide diplomacy a chance. The world needs wise foreign policies, rather than the diplomacy that is aimed at clashes. And China has always wanted to win peace, not war.

Recently, the Chilcot report on the Iraq War released by the UK government once again showed that wrongful US policy has brought not only itself, but also the world huge disaster. In 2001, then US president George W. Bush made a wrong decision to trigger the war in Iraq. Today, Washington is unfairly waging another "war" against China under so-called international law.  

The White House has been refusing to sign the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and once refused to recognize the UN court's jurisdiction in the case over military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua. But now, it describes itself as a guardian of the rules-based international order.

The author is a research fellow with the Charhar Institute in Beijing and an adjunct fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Posted in: Asian Review, South China Sea Focus

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