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China vs. Philippines: South China Sea Dispute Heats Up

Daniel Kim Views  

In response to China’s enforcement of a regulation allowing its coast guard to detain foreign ships and individuals trespassing in the South China Sea for up to 60 days, effective from the 15th, the Philippines, amidst a territorial dispute, has urged its fishermen to ignore the regulation and continue their work.

On the 15th, as reported by Reuters, Romeo Brawner Jr., the Chief of Staff of the Philippine military, said, “We told them not to be afraid, but to just go ahead with their normal fishing activities in our exclusive economic zone.” He emphasized, “We have the right to utilize the resources of those waters, and there’s no reason to be scared. The government is discussing various measures to protect our fishermen,” he added.

The Philippines voiced concern regarding China’s new regulation, which started on the 15th, defining it as a provocation. In response, the Philippine government has opted to increase the deployment of navy and coast guard ships in contested waters, including Scarborough Shoal (China’s name, Huangyan Island) in the Spratly Islands. Similarly, the Taiwanese coast guard, also experiencing territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, recently asserted its commitment to protect fishermen. The declaration stated it “will strengthen the mission of protecting fishermen, staunchly safeguard the fishing safety of our fishermen, guarantee maritime rights and interests, and defend sovereignty.”

The United States, bound by a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, expressed concern that if China enforces such regulations, it will “greatly escalate tensions and harm peace and security in the region.” Moreover, applying Chinese domestic law to foreign vessels within another country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or international waters is impermissible under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) also criticized China in a joint statement announced the day before: “We continue opposing China’s dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia in the South China Sea and its repeated obstruction of countries’ high seas freedom of navigation.” 

In retaliation, China, represented by its Ministry of Defense spokesman Zhang Xiaogang, affirmed that “Nansha Islands (or the Spratly Islands) is part of China’s territory, and asserted the legality and reasonability to enforce Chinese law in the waters under China’s legal jurisdiction.” China further refuted that the Philippines is “breaking agreements and playing with fire, thereby escalating tensions.”

China has long asserted ownership over approximately 90% of the area within the nine-dash line, a U-shaped demarkation in the South China Sea. Despite the ruling in 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in favor of the Philippines, stating that China’s claim has no basis in international law, China has ignored this and insisted on its sovereignty. Consequently, this stance has resulted in conflicts with neighboring countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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