Latest Escalations in The South China Sea
- Latest Escalations in The South China Sea
by Brian Kalman exclusively for SouthFront; https://southfront.org/
On July 12, 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in favor of the Republic of the Philippines in its arbitration case against The Peoples Republic of China. The intervening weeks have seen a marked escalation in military deployments, activities and political rhetoric from China, the United States, Japan and quite interestingly, Vietnam. The Philippines has made efforts to deescalate the highly charged situation since its legal victory at the PCA.
China has instituted the practice of regular combat patrols over the disputed islands in the South China Sea, beginning with the first such patrol carried out on July 18th. In addition, China has dispatched numerous maritime surveillance vessels and civilian fishing fleets to the waters around Scarborough Shoal. These combat air patrols are to continue into the foreseeable future. China continues to develop its manmade islands’ military capabilities and continues to launch powerful naval vessels at breakneck speed.
The United States has heralded the PCA ruling as the definitive ruling on the dispute and has called on China to accept the the will of the international community and abide by international law. This, quite hypocritically, coming from one of a handful of nations that has refused to ratify the treaty. The U.S. has taken the unprecedented measure of stationing THAAD missile systems in South Korea, ostensibly aimed at defending this country from North Korean ballistic missiles. China has seen this move as one that changes the strategic situation in the region, and putting it at a distinct disadvantage. The U.S. announced the deployment of additional B-52 Stratofortress bombers to Guam on August 12th. More importantly, the additional deployment of B-1 and B-2 strategic bombers to the island was also announced. This marks the first time these nuclear-capable strategic assets have been deployed to Guam.
Vietnam quietly deployed defensive rocket artillery systems to a number of islands that it has occupied in the Spratly Archipelago. China almost immediately announced that Vietnam’s actions were a “terrible mistake”. It is hinted that the rocket artillery batteries will target the airfields built on Chinese occupied islands in the Spratlys.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration Ruling
The South China Sea Crisis took a decidedly ominous turn when the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines in the arbitration initiated by that nation on January 22, 2012. The Court ruled that it did have authority to rule on the arbitration, that China need not take part in the arbitration for it to be legitimate and binding, and that China’s “Nine Dash Line” was not valid as it did not comply with the UNCLOS (whose authority supersedes any historic rights), that China had taken actions to aggravate and not alleviate the dispute between it and the Philippines, and that no entitlements granted by islands within a nations EEZ or continental shelf can be obtained by artificial islands built on previously low-tide elevations. The PAC also ruled that Mischief Reef is within the EEZ of the Philippines.
China predictably refused to acknowledge the validity of the ruling or the authority of the PCA to preside over the arbitration in the first place. China officially went on record in 2006, a full six years before the arbitration was put forth by the Philippines, declaring under Article 298 of the UNCLOS that, “The Government of the People’s Republic of China does not accept any of the procedures provided for in Section 2 of Part XV of the Convention with respect to all the categories of disputes referred to in paragraph 1 (a) (b) and (c) of Article 298 of the Convention.”
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