Thursday, July 26, 2012


"The South China Sea dispute between China and some of its South East Asian neighbours –Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei – has reached an impasse. Increasingly assertive positions among claimants have pushed regional tensions to new heights. Driven by potential hydrocarbon reserves and declining fish stocks, Vietnam and the Philippines in particular are taking a more confrontational posture with China. All claimants are expanding their military and law enforcement capabilities, while growing nationalism at home is empowering hardliners pushing for a tougher stance on territorial claims. In addition, claimants are pursuing divergent resolution mechanisms; Beijing insists on resolving the disputes bilaterally, while Vietnam and the Philippines are actively engaging the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). To counter diminishing prospects of resolution of the conflicts, the countries should strengthen efforts to promote joint development of hydrocarbon and fish resources and adopt a binding code of conduct for all parties to the dispute. The extent and vagueness of China’s claims to the South China Sea, along with its assertive approach, have rattled other claimants. But China is not stoking tensions on its own. South East Asian claimants, with Vietnam and the Philippines in the forefront, are now more forcefully defending their claims – and enlisting outside allies – with considerable energy...While the likelihood of major conflict remains low, all of the trends are in the wrong direction, and prospects of resolution are diminishing. Joint management of resources in the disputed areas could help reduce tensions among claimants, but the only attempt so far by China, Vietnam and the Philippines to jointly conduct seismic survey in disputed areas failed in 2008. Since then, claimants have strongly resisted compromising their territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, which would be necessary to undertake such projects. In the absence of regional agreement on policy options or an effective mechanism to mitigate and de-escalate incidents, this strategically important maritime domain will remain unstable".
The International Crisis Group
. "Stirring up the South China Seas (II): Regional Responses." 24 July 2012, in
"For many observers, rising frictions between China and Japan over a group of remote and uninhabited islands in the East China Sea are worrying enough. But if some influential Chinese nationalist commentators have their way, the spat over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands – which Beijing calls the Diaoyu – could widen into a dispute over a much more important archipelago. In a fiery editorial earlier this month, the Global Times newspaper urged Beijing to consider challenging Japan’s control over its southern prefecture of Okinawa – an island chain with a population of 1.4m people that bristles with US military bases. “China should not be afraid of engaging with Japan in a mutual undermining of territorial integrity,” the Communist party-run paper declared. Major General Jin Yinan, head of the strategy research institute at China’s National Defense University, went even further. He told state radio that limiting discussion to the Diaoyu was “too narrow”, saying Beijing should question ownership of the whole Ryukyu archipelago – which by some definitions extends beyond Okinawa. While the Chinese government has offered no endorsement of such radical views, their open espousal by senior commentators is likely to be deeply unsettling both to Japan and other neighbouring nations. “Challenging Japan’s sovereignty over the Ryukyus would indeed be a break from the past,” says Taylor Fravel, a Chinese security expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who argues that Beijing has tended to limit its territorial claims for the sake of clearly defined borders. Chinese questioning of Japanese sovereignty over Okinawa is based on the prefecture’s roots in an independent state known as the Ryukyu Kingdom that won control of the archipelago in the 15th century. Ryukyu kings paid formal tribute to Chinese emperors, a practice allowing lucrative trade that continued even after the kingdom was conquered by a Japanese feudal domain in 1609. Okinawa only officially became part of Japan in 1879. But such arguments could be diplomatically incendiary. “Once you start arguing that a tributary relationship at some point in history is the basis for a sovereignty claim in the 20th century, you start worrying a lot of people,” says June Teufel Dreyer, a China and Japan specialist at the University of Miami. “Many, many countries had tributary relationships with China.”'
Katherine Hille & Mure Dickie, "Chinese nationalists eye Okinawa." The Financial Times. 23 July 2012, in
The latest statements coming from official and semi-official Chinese commentators as per the Financial Times article on Monday, give the lie, almost completely as per the bien-pensant / Panglossian reasoning of the International Crisis Group sort. It is obviously the case, that for primat der Innenpolitik, reasons, there are elements in the PRC, which view belligerence and indeed perhaps sotto voce, expansionist policies as being legitimate. It is obviously the case, that these elements are so far, not in control, or should one say, complete control of Chinese foreign policy. With that being said, it is self-evident, that the re-balancing by weaker, regional actors, such the the Vietnamese, the Philippines, South Korea and of course Japan, by actively encouraging American involvement, both diplomatic and military, is, far from being a harbinger of more conflict (pace the International Crisis Group), is au contraire, a necessary ingredient towards a healthy stabilization of the region. Sans, such American and Western involvement, there is a real danger of a PRC flucht nach vorn policy towards these issues taking hold. With evil consequences to be the end-result. Or as E. H. Carr, noted correctly in his entre deux guerre, magnum opus, The 20 Years Crisis:
"Biologically and economically the doctrine of the harmony of interests was tenable only if you left out of the account the interest of the weak, who must be driven to the wall, or called in the next world to redress the balance of the present 1."
1. E.H. Carr. The 20 Years Crisis: 1919-1939. (1939), p. 50.


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