Arbitration creates little more than noise

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/20 23:08:01

The South China sea has kept its tranquility one week after the arbitration award was issued. China is continuing with its island construction activities. It has conducted trial test flights at two newly established airports in the Nansha Islands and carried out a combat air patrol over Huangyan Island. On Wednesday, eight Taiwanese lawmakers visited Taiping Island in a move to reassert sovereignty.

Despite all this, there has yet to be any strong backlash by the US, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. The arbitration result, which is merely a piece of paper, failed to yield any actual effects.

Nonetheless, the US and Japan have engaged in some petty tricks. US Vice President Joe Biden has won over endorsement of the arbitration result from his Australian host during a recent visit. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to make an issue of the award at the just concluded Asia-Europe Meeting, to no avail.

In a statement on its official website, the Vietnamese government denied that Vietnam's top leader agreed on China's position on the South China Sea arbitration award. Philippine Foreign Minister  Perfecto Yasay said on Tuesday Manila has turned down a Chinese proposal to start bilateral talks on the South China Sea dispute because of Beijing's pre-condition of not discussing the arbitration result.

The stance of Vietnam and the Philippines is not unexpected, nor it is provocative. This is not an indication that the pressure on China over the South China Sea is mounting. Other external powers, save the US and Japan, have no interest in stirring up the South China Sea arbitration. The US interferes in the South China Sea out of its hegemonic ambitions, while Japan can't accept a rising China.

Hanoi and Manila know full well that the arbitration result cannot be put into effect. Even though they are unwilling to admit it's just a piece of paper, they understand the award is only an illusion created by the US and Japan. They also clearly know that the US and Japan use them as pawns. Solving disputes through peace talks falls in line with their genuine interests.

The US presidential campaign is in full swing. Will President Barack Obama take the plunge of a showdown with China in the South China Sea? Probably not. China believes the US can abide by the bottom line of rationality. Democracy is supposed to prevent silly decisions. But it's believed the Chinese government will make contingency plans.

The South China Sea has become a battlefield of strategic competition between China and the US. After a new president is sworn in, the US muscle-flexing in the waters is highly likely to be intensified. But at that time, the wrangling will have nothing to do with the arbitration case, but will be more about collisions between two powers on their way to exploring a new type of relations. 

Posted in: Editorial

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