South China Sea dispute

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Senior Member
Hot on the tail of Yellow Sea showdown and East China Sea showdown, there is increasing collaboration between some member of ASEAN and the US on the South China Sea dispute. A meeting between President Obama and ASEAN leaders produced this statement:

18. We reaffirmed the importance of regional peace and stability, maritime security, unimpeded commerce, and freedom of navigation, in accordance with relevant universally agreed principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other international maritime law, and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Overall, it looks like China successfully watered-down the joint statement. The US was hoping for something calling for continued US leadership in South China Sea, guarantor of security in the region, condemning unspecified third-parties' alleged "aggressive build up." So, this is a diplomatic victory for China.


Junior Member
This thread will probably be in the spotlight every now and than.

There are plenty of references on the internet that can be linked here. But, I'll start with something a little positive and hope that this dispute can be resolved peacefully:

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The Governments of the Member States of ASEAN and the Government of the People's Republic of China,

REAFFIRMING their determination to consolidate and develop the friendship and cooperation existing between their people and governments with the view to promoting a 21st century-oriented partnership of good neighbourliness and mutual trust;

COGNIZANT of the need to promote a peaceful, friendly and harmonious environment in the South China Sea between ASEAN and China for the enhancement of peace, stability, economic growth and prosperity in the region;

COMMITTED to enhancing the principles and objectives of the 1997 Joint Statement of the Meeting of the Heads of State/Government of the Member States of ASEAN and President of the People's Republic of China;

DESIRING to enhance favourable conditions for a peaceful and durable solution of differences and disputes among countries concerned;

HEREBY DECLARE the following:

1. The Parties reaffirm their commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and other universally recognized principles of international law which shall serve as the basic norms governing state-to-state relations;

2. The Parties are committed to exploring ways for building trust and confidence in accordance with the above-mentioned principles and on the basis of equality and mutual respect;

3. The Parties reaffirm their respect for and commitment to the freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea as provided for by the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;

4. The Parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;

5. The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.

Pending the peaceful settlement of territorial and jurisdictional disputes, the Parties concerned undertake to intensify efforts to seek ways, in the spirit of cooperation and understanding, to build trust and confidence between and among them, including:

a. holding dialogues and exchange of views as appropriate between their defense and military officials;

b. ensuring just and humane treatment of all persons who are either in danger or in distress;

c. notifying, on a voluntary basis, other Parties concerned of any impending joint/combined military exercise; and

d. exchanging, on a voluntary basis, relevant information.

6. Pending a comprehensive and durable settlement of the disputes, the Parties concerned may explore or undertake cooperative activities. These may include the following:

a. marine environmental protection;
b. marine scientific research;
c. safety of navigation and communication at sea;
d. search and rescue operation; and
e. combating transnational crime, including but not limited to trafficking in illicit drugs, piracy and armed robbery at sea, and illegal traffic in arms.

The modalities, scope and locations, in respect of bilateral and multilateral cooperation should be agreed upon by the Parties concerned prior to their actual implementation.

7. The Parties concerned stand ready to continue their consultations and dialogues concerning relevant issues, through modalities to be agreed by them, including regular consultations on the observance of this Declaration, for the purpose of promoting good neighbourliness and transparency, establishing harmony, mutual understanding and cooperation, and facilitating peaceful resolution of disputes among them;

8. The Parties undertake to respect the provisions of this Declaration and take actions consistent therewith;

9. The Parties encourage other countries to respect the principles contained in this Declaration;

10. The Parties concerned reaffirm that the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea would further promote peace and stability in the region and agree to work, on the basis of consensus, towards the eventual attainment of this objective.

Done on the Fourth Day of November in the Year Two Thousand and Two in Phnom Penh, the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Signatures can't be copied and pasted into the quote above. See the link for the signatures of the ASEAN and PRC reps.

Some points about this declaration:
1. Critics say that this is a declaration and thus, is not legally binding. Hence, it is not enforceable.
2. Proponents say that this declaration (while not legally binding) is a huge step forward as China has signed on a multilateral declaration regarding the Spratlys. This marks a departure from China's previous position of only holding bilateral talks with the rest of the claimants on the Spratlys.
3. The long term goal is to start from a declaration and progress from there. However, given China's assertiveness in the recent Diaoyu/Senkaku spat, there are concerns on whether further progress on the Spratlys (and Paracels) dispute is possible in the near future.

Zhong Fei

New Member
The President of the Philippines just asked Obama directly for USA's support for the Philippines in the Spratly issue.

But also in Front of Fellow ASEAN members who have staked claims on those islands. Furthermore the USA said that the Philippines will have the ASEAN eadership for 3 years.

So I am wondering What does this mean for Malaysia and Vietnam? No Doubt 2 countries whose economies are better than the Philippines and both Have claim to Spratlys. I bet they are thinking that the Philippines is given special attention because they are USA's pets.

Also the Taiwan Issue. Taiwan have militarily intervened on Spratlys before. Against the Philippines. Spratlys was actually given to them by the French after WW2 and some idiot Tomas Cloma came from the Philippines who invaded and claimed it freedom lands.

Taiwan being USA ally in the Region I bet they will feel betrayed that the Philippines is given the Ultimate support of USA while they are supposed to kill and halt their brother's (China) advancement technologically and economically.


Junior Member
Taipei claims the Spratly Islands using the same historical and cartographic arguments Beijing does. They claim the islands belong to China, Taipei is the seat of the legitimate Chinese government, ergo the Spratly Islands belong to Taiwan. They also occupy the largest island, Itu Aba, and others. The PRC actually has barely a toehold in the Spratly Islands, some build-up forts on submerged reefs and nothing more. The few inhabitable islands belong to Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

The PRC should make a serious effort to coordinate their claims of the Spratly and Senkaku Islands with Taipei. This would be beneficial to them by dividing the anti-China alliance Japan wants to forge for all issues China. It would reinforce the reality that both the Mainland and Taiwan claim to be the same country and ought to have the Chinese nation's larger interests at heart. The KMT and CCP called a truce to fight the Japanese invasion in World War II because they recognized a far greater threat. That should serve as a precedent to renewed cooperation in the area of territorial disputes. Cooperation will beget appreciation and good feelings between Taiwan residents and Mainland residents.


Senior Member
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  • #5
US and Vietnam are publicly moving toward joint action to prevent China from projecting power in the South China Sea. Vietnam also backed up the public position with a military parade. Last year they also held a joint army, navy, air force exercise. Vietnam even granted Russian Navy a port lease.

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China must overcome serious obstacles to project power firmly into the South China Sea and enforce its territorial claim to the Spratlys.

- China must acquire a modern amphibious strike ability with sea-lift. This requires the mass production of Type 071, LCAC and Zubr. That is probably some 5 years away. PLAN marines also need to build up experience using the new equipment. Once this capability is acquired by 2015-2020, China can directly seize any islands in the South China Sea and even threaten capital cities of island countries disputing the Spratlys. The balance of power would then overwhelmingly tip to China.

- China must maintain its strategic space to build up the modern amphibious strike ability. This means it must be able to project power to about 400 km from the shores of the mainland or Hainan province -- this creates a sanctuary for its amphibious strike fleet to operate and grow. China must be able to gain an advantage over the US if it tries to conduct military operations within this line of maritime control. This can be done with ground-based strike aircraft, Type 022 FAC, Type 054 frigates, Yuan SSK and even Type 093 SSN.

- China must stop Vietnam from seizing the Paracels, enforce China's EEZ and prevent Vietnam from gaining nuclear weapons. Vietnam is trying very hard to purchase weapons to use against China but it's economic resources are very limited because it is poor. To defend against this challenge, China must maintain overwhelming military superiority and if Vietnam instigates a clash, use that capability. Because Vietnam is undergoing economic and social change just like China did in the 80's, Vietnam is very susceptible to economic sanction or political intrigue. China should use those unique weaknesses to its advantage.

- China must use economic and diplomatic means to stop Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines or Singapore continue support for Vietnam. The first one of these countries to cut a deal with China gets major benefits. As China successfully maintains maritime strategic space and contains Vietnam's ambitions, the writing is on the wall for SE Asian nations to cut a deal. Use of economic and diplomatic means will accelerate that process to possibly 2013 at the earliest I think.


ASEAN is nothing morn than a regional economic co-op of sort, it ain't political / military alliance, and judging every member has border disputed with one or more of the other members, so wide a spectrum of political systems (military junta, autocracy, communism, socialism, pseudo-theocracy, pseudo-noble house dictatorship) so they always look for a godfather outside the ring, that'd be the US, Australia is more like the godfather's "go-between/captain/enforcer" with all these small potatos...
However, China's role has become more complicated - used to be just a "common enemy" in every term, ASEAN countries also need to contend their need and desire to make their bucks in the China market, not to mention the resurgence of China granted it a bigger role in the region that their collective strength can't compete with...and the economic muscle-flexing against the Japanese helps in this regard as well.
So in the typical style of small nations, ASEAN played 2-handed approach, thus the half-arsed declaration - still putting their chips on the US, but avoid purring themselves on the opposing front against China at the same time.


So in the typical style of small nations, ASEAN played 2-handed approach, thus the half-arsed declaration - still putting their chips on the US, but avoid purring themselves on the opposing front against China at the same time.
Not a surprising outcome if you consider, out of the 10 Asean countries, only 2 or 3 of them have actual territorial disputes with China, despite what some would like to make it seem otherwise. Asean countries have the tradition of non-interference in the affairs of other countries in the region and I don't see this tradition changing in the near future. Notise how these countries always avoid using harsh language when commenting on the issues of democracy in Burma, to the objection of Western countries. The rare exception recently is that of the Phillipine president commenting that China shouldn't be referring to the sea area as being South China Sea or something like that - can't remember exactly.


Senior Member
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  • #8
Philippines deployed air force aircraft (including a "light bomber") to threaten Chinese maritime patrol vessels who intercepted a Philippines oil exploration vessel in disputed South China Sea.

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Meanwhile, Vietnam protested routine Chinese military drills near Spratly Islands, even though Vietnam conducts similar exercises far more often.

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It looks like these two countries are testing the waters to see whether they can successfully contain China and win the disputed islands. I would not be surprised to see Philippines try to get US help on its side.

China needs a robust policy. If Philippines wants to get its air force involved, China should send J-11B to South China Sea and act aggressively (get on their six for radar / missile lock) against Philippines air force to send a strong message.


Or maybe China again starts trying to bully it's neighbours to claim the whole South China Sea just for herself.
The chinese vessel again approached a foreign vessel in an aggressive manner, wich seems to be a preferred tactic by chinese naval planners. Sending a patrol aircraft to investigate would seem like a sensible move then, rather than sending heavy fighters like you propose.
Furthermore, the very aggressive acts you want to happen would indeed say a lot about the peacfull rise thing. And would also aggravate the countries around China's perifery and push them in a direction not particularly favorable of China.
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Senior Member
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  • #10
That peaceful rise stuff is for children. Spratley Islands belong to China and anybody who challenges that will not face a response that is "peaceful."

Joining any anti-China alliance would lead to even worse consequences for those countries. China is a serious superpower and it intends to act like one.
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