June 05, 2015

"Not only claimant countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, but also non-claimant countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan have been perturbed by China's unbridled gobbling up of contested features in international waters such as the South China Sea."

Huffington Post China has resorted to what I call "strategic ambiguity": That is to say, using rhetorical obfuscation and quasi-legal explanations to cover up for destabilizing actions on the ground. by Richard Javad Heydarian via Rappler

'After all, China's actions violate the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC), which discourages any unilateral alteration of the status quo, as well as international law, which bars the permanent and artificial alteration of disputed features.

'For instance, China is yet to even identify, among other things, the precise coordinates of its infamous "nine-dashed-line" claims. Nor has it fully clarified the legal validity of its vague notion of "historical rights" in the South China Sea vis-à-vis modern international law. Whenever China was pressured to clarify its activities in adjacent waters, it tried to shut down the discussion by claiming "inherent and indisputable sovereignty" over contested features.

'China's relentless push for dominating adjacent waters has been facilitated by the lack of unity among its neighbors, particularly the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is deeply divided on how to approach the South China Sea disputes; the longstanding unwillingness of major powers to risk confrontation with Beijing, although Washington has gradually begun to challenge China's construction activities by deploying warships and surveillance aircraft close to contested features; the vagaries of international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), vis-à-vis disputed territories in international waters; and the Philippines' inability to develop even a minimum deterrence capability.

'The Philippines can no longer afford any form of strategic complacency. There is a growing feeling of desperation and the urgency for bold and more decisive responses to Chinese creation of facts on the waters. As one Japanese official recently put it, "We have to show China that it doesn't own the [South China] sea."'

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