Friday, 03 August, 2012 | 11:26 WIB
Report on Regional Responses to South China Sea
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:The South China Sea dispute between China and some of its South East Asian neighbours – Vietnam, the Philip-pines, Malaysia and Brunei – has reached an impasse, according to the latest report by the International Crisis Group. Increasingly assertive positions among claimants have pushed regional tensions to new heights, the report states. 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),” it states.
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 de-fending their claims – and enlisting outside allies – with considerable energy.
South China Sea claimants are all anxious to pursue oil and gas exploration in the portions of the sea that they claim, and are concerned with protecting their claimed fishing grounds as coastal waters become depleted. This makes skirmishes more likely. Further complicating matters, the report further states, control over resources in the sea is a nationalist issue for all claimants, making it more difficult for governments to de-escalate incidents and restricting their ability to cooperate on initiatives that could lessen tensions. Among those in South East Asia, the Vietnamese government is under the most domestic pressure to defend the country’s territorial claims against China. ****