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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

 

Meanwhile, in the South China Sea

by Tom Sullivan


China's reclamation in the South China Sea, the "Great Wall of Sand"
U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters.

We've been following this since Gaius Publius raised it at Down With Tyranny over a year ago. A quarter of the world’s shipping goes through the South China Sea. So when the Chinese started building islands in waters disputed by six countries, pay attention. (Reuters has a map of disputed reefs and shoals.) While America is playing Pokemon Go, The Great Game is still a being played on the other side of the planet.

CNN reports:

An international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in a maritime dispute Tuesday, concluding China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to the bulk of the South China Sea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping rejected the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which is likely to have lasting implications for the resource-rich hot spot, which sees $5 trillion worth of shipborne trade pass through each year.
Reuters reports:
China vowed to take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty over the South China Sea and said it had the right to set up an air defence zone, after rejecting an international tribunal's ruling denying its claims to the energy-rich waters.

Chinese state media called the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague a "puppet" of external forces, after it ruled that China had breached the Philippines' sovereign rights by endangering its ships and fishing and oil projects.

Beijing has repeatedly blamed the United States for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Bonnie Glaser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) told the Guardian the ruling would not invalidate all Chinese “nine-dash line” claims in the area (green line above), but "would really limit the amount of water that the Chinese could have any legal sovereignty claim to." China might at this point try to avoid “destabilising actions” ahead of hosting the G20 meeting in September:

“[But] there is the potential that things go the other direction and that is that the Chinese think that they are being bullied, they are being victimised and that the party must defend China’s sovereignty and every inch of China’s territory. In which case we could see some rather provocative moves.

“The notion that they might start landing fighters … would really escalate tensions between the US and China and make the region very nervous.”

Ashley Townshend, a fellow at the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre, said he believed Beijing would seek a “middle path: a way to not capitulate but also a way to not escalate”.

That would probably involve continuing to conduct military exercises in the region as a way of showing strength without further inflaming tensions.
While the U.S. has continued to assert its right to navigate in the area, China points out that the United States is not a signatory to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea ratified by 160 other countries. So kindly butt out.

Donald Trump may dislike our trade deals with the Chinese, but its "Great Wall of Sand" probably sounds good to him. That is (as with Brexit), he even knows what it is.