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Around the Web: Islands in the South China Sea

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08 May Around the Web: Islands in the South China Sea

China has intensified construction on artificial islands in the South China Sea in recent months. At the end of April, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — which includes the Philippines and Vietnam, rival South China Sea claimants who have clashed with China – issued a statement saying that China’s landfill work “eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea”. We take a look at articles around the web on the maritime disputes.

Future Developments: What’s Next in the South China Sea?

China may soon field large-scale mobile sea platforms, which are being called “floating islands” by observers, according to a recent report in the US magazine Popular Science.

In a commentary for the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, also published in The Nation, Nguyen Hong Thao discusses the implications if these platforms are fielded in the South China Sea – including the fact that their legal status under the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is unclear. Do they count as artificial structures, or just ships?

The View from the Philippines

In an interview published in the Asian Correspondent, Madhu Narasimhan speaks to Laura Q. Del Rosario, Philippines Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs and APEC National Secretary, answering questions ranging from the Philippines’ concerns about China’s moves in the South China Sea, ties with the United States, and the need for ASEAN unity. An excerpt from the interview is below.

Q. Does China wish to achieve regional hegemony in the Asia-Pacific? What are your thoughts on China’s maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea? Is this a security issue on which the Philippines will collaborate with states outside of Asia?

The core issue is China’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea, which is an excessive and expansive claim; a gross violation of international law. The Philippines has long noted China’s acts of intimidation and coercion, which are intended to force a change in the status quo in the South China Sea. Such acts not only threaten our national security but also regional peace and order, and the freedom of navigation and lawful commerce in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has undertaken a strong and consistent position that the rule of law should prevail in settling disputes in the region. In the context of recent developments, this rules-based approach has two fundamental components: first, the conclusion of a substantive and legally-binding ASEAN-China Code of Conduct; and second, third-party arbitration of the various maritime disputes in the South China Sea. This third-party arbitration will happen in accordance with international law – specifically the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

We also strive to strengthen alliances and partnerships with countries that have a common stake in the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

Q. Speaking of these alliances and partnerships, where does the US-Philippines relationship stand today? What are your thoughts on the US “pivot to Asia” / “rebalance” strategy in Asia?

The Philippines is America’s oldest treaty ally in Southeast Asia. The United States is the only treaty ally of the Philippines. Together, we have weathered decades of regional conflicts and have contributed to regional stability. We have done so in great part because of our shared democratic principles and values.

The Philippines, along with other countries in the region, has welcomed the US strategy of “rebalance” in Asia. As a Pacific power, it is important for the US to remain fully engaged. Nevertheless, we have noted that the US is currently more focused in the Middle East and Africa – in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq more than in Asia.

We will continue to work closely with the US government to ensure that their rebalance to Asia is indeed comprehensive, and that it will create new opportunities for the Philippines – not only in defense and security cooperation, but also economically and in terms of people-to-people ties.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons