South China Sea

China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea has raised tensions over competing territorial claims and maritime rights. In July 2016, an International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea found in favour of the Philippines on fourteen of fifteen points in its dispute with China, ruling that Beijing’s “nine-dash line” claim is inconsistent with international law. China rejected the decision, but subsequently its relations with the Philippines have warmed. Tensions between littoral states and China remain, however, as do disagreements between Beijing and Washington over freedom of navigation and trade. The risk of clashes is real. Crisis Group seeks to reduce friction and promote shared stewardship of the sea and its natural resources.

CrisisWatch South China Sea

Unchanged Situation

China conducted minesweeping and training exercises, while regional body ASEAN announced intention to proceed with Code of Conduct negotiating text. Chinese navy 13 Aug commenced five-day minesweeping drill in South China Sea (SCS) with brigade including Type 082-II minesweepers Hejian and Chishui. China’s Shandong aircraft carrier battlegroup 24 Aug commenced training exercises. ASEAN FMs 5 Aug called for “maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation” in SCS during foreign ministers’ meeting, and announced aim to conclude second reading of Single Draft Negotiating Text for Code of Conduct by end of 2022. Taiwanese FM Joseph Wu 9 Aug warned China’s ambitions go beyond Taiwan, said it is “determined to link the East and South China Seas to the Taiwan Strait so this entire area would become its internal waters”. Australian Air Force chief Robert Chipman 22 Aug said Australia would continue surveillance operations in SCS despite “recent spate of unsafe incidences”, alluding to May confrontation between Australian and Chinese jets.

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In The News

14 Dec 2016
The chair of ASEAN has the power to set the agenda. What [the chair] has been used for historically is to cut things out of the agenda, particularly the South China Sea. Voice of America
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