Features include interactive map, in-depth stories, and more.Download now. »
The week's top five must-sees,
delivered to your inbox.
VOA News | Jul 27
China's move to base troops on a disputed island in the South China Sea has raised concerns about a possible military confrontation in an area wher...
There are valuable fishing grounds in the South China Sea, and potentially, huge pools of oil and gas that could rival those in the Middle East. The sea also contains major sea lanes to Japan and South Korea. So whoever controls the sea could potentially put a choke-hold on those countries’ maritime trade. South Korean broadcaster MBC discusses how difficult it may be to resolve the opposing claims.
Hu Mu-hoo, Reporter:
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea are getting worse. The dispute between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal has been going on for three months, and China and Vietnam recently renewed a maritime dispute over the Paracel Islands. These disputes occur as China gains power and the political and economic value of the South China Sea increases. Diplomats of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are gathering in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Settling the territorial disputes in the South China Sea is at the top of the agenda.
Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister:
Cambodia will do its best to cooperate and to help accomplish the top agenda item of ASEAN.
To counter China’s harsh pressure over the territorial dispute, ASEAN countries are planning a coordinated response. The US supports this plan. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is siding with the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal, and she will attend the ASEAN Forum on the12th. However, China stands firm. And after criticizing Japan for declaring the Senkaku Islands as part of its national territory, China plans to conduct live fire drills as an armed protest. Calming tension between China and adjacent countries will not be easy.
So how far away are we from a peaceful and consensual process on the South China Sea? To help us parse what this means, we have Don Emmerson from the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. Professor Emmerson is an expert on ASEAN and its relations with China and the US. Do you have a sense yet of how China is likely to respond?
Well frankly, my sense is that internally, inside China, there is tremendous division on precisely this question. I think the People’s Liberation Army, including its navel component, would very much like to take a hard line. And some of the things that the admirals have been saying are really borderline bullying. On the other hand, I think the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing is well aware of the costs of seeming to be destructive on this very delicate issue of who owns what in the South China Sea. There are a total of six states that have competing claims over different parts of the South China Sea. That, unfortunately, I see no sign that that issue will be resolved in the near future.
Now just your guess based on where we are today, do you see the South China Sea territorial claims being resolved amicably or do you think it’s going to lead to some potential military confrontations?
Well, the good news is that this is happening on water. If it were a land issue, it would be much easier for escalations to occur. Two armies face to face, and then you have a war. I rather doubt that that will happen in the maritime context. So you will have clashes like we have had in the past, but I doubt that they will escalate into a full conflict. But that doesn’t make the problem any less urgent.
Thanks so much, Don. Don Emmerson is a Southeast Asia expert at Stanford University. We’ll have reports on another maritime dispute involving China later in the show.