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Stirring Up the South China Sea 2

Stirring Up the South China Sea 2

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01/06/2013

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STIRRING UP THE SOUTH CHINA SEA (II): REGIONAL RESPONSES
Asia Report N°229 – 24 July 2012
 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTSEXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................. iI.
 
INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................. 1
 
II.
 
REGIONAL PERSPECTIVES ON CHINA’S SOUTH CHINA SEAAPPROACH ...................................................................................................................... 2
 
A.
 
V
IETNAM
..................................................................................................................................... 2
 
B.
 
T
HE
P
HILIPPINES
.......................................................................................................................... 6
 
C.
 
M
ALAYSIA
................................................................................................................................. 10
 
D.
 
T
AIWAN
..................................................................................................................................... 11
 
III.
 
POTENTIAL DRIVERS OF CONFLICT .................................................................... 13
 
A.
 
H
YDROCARBONS
........................................................................................................................ 14
 
B.
 
F
ISHERIES
.................................................................................................................................. 16
 
C.
 
I
 NCREASED
M
ILITARISATION AND
C
IVILIAN
P
ATROLS
............................................................... 17
 
D.
 
 N
ATIONALISM
............................................................................................................................ 20
 
IV.
 
INTERNATIONALISING THE ISSUE ....................................................................... 21
 
A.
 
B
RINGING IN THE
U.S. ............................................................................................................... 22
 
1.
 
Vietnam ...................................................................................................................................... 22
 
2.
 
The Philippines .......................................................................................................................... 25
 
B.
 
C
HINA
S
P
ERSPECTIVE ON THE
U.S.
 
OLE
................................................................................. 27
 
C.
 
I
 NVOLVEMENT OF
O
THER 
 N
ON
-
CLAIMANTS
............................................................................... 28
 
V.
 
MEASURES TO REDUCE RISKS ............................................................................... 29
 
A.
 
T
HE
L
AW OF THE
S
EA AND
I
 NTERNATIONAL
A
RBITRATION
........................................................ 29
 
B.
 
ASEAN
AND THE
C
ODE OF
C
ONDUCT
....................................................................................... 30
 
C.
 
J
OINT
M
ANAGEMENT OF
ESOURCES
......................................................................................... 32
 
VI.
 
CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................ 33
 
APPENDICES
A.
 
M
AP OF
S
OUTH
C
HINA
S
EA
.............................................................................................................. 35
B.
 
C
ONFLICTING
C
LAIMS
..................................................................................................................... 36
C.
 
A
BOUT THE
I
 NTERNATIONAL
C
RISIS
G
ROUP
.................................................................................... 39
D.
 
C
RISIS
G
ROUP
EPORTS AND
B
RIEFINGS ON
A
SIA SINCE
2009 ......................................................... 40
E.
 
C
RISIS
G
ROUP
B
OARD OF
T
RUSTEES
................................................................................................ 42
 
 
Asia Report N°229 24 July 2012
STIRRING UP THE SOUTH CHINA SEA (II): REGIONAL RESPONSESEXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The South China Sea dispute between China and some of its South East Asian neighbours – Vietnam, the Philip- pines, Malaysia and Brunei – has reached an impasse. In-creasingly assertive positions among claimants have pushedregional tensions to new heights. Driven by potential hy-drocarbon reserves and declining fish stocks, Vietnam andthe Philippines in particular are taking a more confronta-tional posture with China. All claimants are expandingtheir military and law enforcement capabilities, whilegrowing nationalism at home is empowering hardliners pushing for a tougher stance on territorial claims. In addi-tion, claimants are pursuing divergent resolution mecha-nisms; Beijing insists on resolving the disputes bilaterally,while Vietnam and the Philippines are actively engagingthe U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN). To counter diminishing prospects of resolutionof the conflicts, the countries should strengthen efforts to promote joint development of hydrocarbon and fish re-sources and adopt a binding code of conduct for all partiesto the dispute.The extent and vagueness of China’s claims to the SouthChina Sea, along with its assertive approach, have rattledother claimants. But China is not stoking tensions on itsown. South East Asian claimants, with Vietnam and thePhilippines in the forefront, are now more forcefully de-fending their claims – and enlisting outside allies – withconsiderable energy. Crisis Group’s first report in this two- part series,
Stirring up the South China Sea (I)
, describedhow China’s internal dynamics shape its actions in theregion. This second report focuses on factors in the other regional countries that are aggravating tensions.South China Sea claimants are all anxious to pursue oiland gas exploration in the portions of the sea that theyclaim, and are concerned with protecting their claimedfishing grounds as coastal waters become depleted. Thismakes skirmishes more likely. Further complicating mat-ters, control over resources in the sea is a nationalist issuefor all claimants, making it more difficult for governmentsto de-escalate incidents and restricting their ability to co-operate on initiatives that could lessen tensions. Amongthose in South East Asia, the Vietnamese government isunder the most domestic pressure to defend the country’sterritorial claims against China.Although China and many other South East Asian stateshave embarked on modernisation programs for their na-vies, it is the increasing number of civilian vessels patrol-ling disputed waters that presents the greatest potentialfor conflict. They have been involved in recent incidents.In spite of being more lightly armed and less threateningthan navy ships, civilian law enforcement vessels are easier to deploy, operate under looser chains of command andengage more readily in skirmishes.While incidents in the sea have not led to actual armedconflict since 1988, they have crystallised anxiety aboutthe shifting balance of power in the region. South EastAsian claimants feel that their options are limited to bilat-eral discussions with China; attempts to include other ac-tors such as the U.S. and ASEAN; and arbitration provided by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).South East Asian states know they lack the clout to faceChina one-on-one. Vietnam and the Philippines in partic-ular are seeking to increase their leverage vis-à-vis China by internationalising the issue. Beijing insists on resolv-ing disputes bilaterally, where its economic and politicalclout carry the most weight. It strongly opposes efforts of South East Asian countries to deepen cooperation withoutside actors, and perceives the U.S. strategic shift to-wards Asia as purposely containing its rise.A lack of unity among China’s rival claimants, coupledwith the weakness of the regional multilateral framework,has hampered the search for a solution. International lawhas been used selectively by claimants to justify assertiveactions in the sea, instead of as a means to resolve disputes.ASEAN, the leading multilateral forum for discussing theissue, has also proven ineffective in reducing tensions.Divisions between member states, stemming from differ-ent perspectives on the South China Sea and differencesin the value each member places on their relations withChina, have prevented ASEAN from coming to a consen-sus on the issue. China has worked actively to exploit thesedivisions, offering preferential treatment to ASEAN mem- bers that do not side with its rival claimants. As a result,no code of conduct on the management of South ChinaSea disputes has been agreed, and ASEAN is increasinglydivided.

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