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[报纸]邹克渊:Defusing the tensions in the South China Sea

发布者:1309005发布时间:2016-03-15浏览次数:1


The Jakarta Post

Lancashire, UK | Fri, March 11 2016 | 09:37 am

The year 2016 is the Year of the Monkey in accordance with the Lunar Calendar. Monkey is characterized as intelligent, but also volatile. 

While the Chinese were about to celebrate their new year in early February, the Americans sent their missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur into the territorial sea of the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands to assert the '�freedom of navigation'�just one week before the Chinese New Year. 

This provocative military exercise made many believe that 2016 is a year of turbulence, at least in the South China Sea. 

Since 2010, the US has gradually moved itself to the forefront with regard to the South China Sea disputes and is now evidently sided with the claimants, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam vis-a-vis China. 

On the one hand, it has reinforced its actual military presence in the South China Sea by not only sending more warships and military airplanes there, but also signing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement to regain the military bases in the Philippines. 

On the other hand, the US has launched a lawfare against China by guiding the Philippines to initiate arbitration proceedings in The Hague, believing that the victory of a lawfare is as significant as that of an actual warfare. 

For that reason, Americans have been deeply involved in the arbitration case, and the case itself may reasonably become part of the Asia Pacific Rebalancing Strategy to contain a rising China. 

Very recently, the US invited the top leaders of all 10 ASEAN members to California with an attempt to formulate a united front against China. 

Thus with the shift of the American policy from neutral to proactive, the tensions in the South China Sea have been unprecedentedly escalated, even to a dangerous level of possible armed conflict or war. 

As all the countries adjacent to the South China Sea are developing countries, peace and stability are essential for economic development and human prosperity in the region. 

For that purpose, 10 ASEAN countries and China successfully signed the landmark document 'Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea ( DOC ) ' in November 2002 so as to manage the South China Sea crisis. 

Though a political document, it contains many international legal norms and principles enunciated in the Charter of the UN, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia that the countries concerned should abide by. 

In addition, the parties to the DOC pledged to resolve their disputes through negotiation and consultation. 

At present, while ASEAN countries and China implement the DOC by launching a series of joint activities as a means to defuse tensions and to build mutual confidence, they are negotiating a legally binding Code of Conduct ( COC ) for the South China Sea. 

Singapore expressed its willingness to take the lead role in formulating the COC and the whole process is on the right track.

Related to the negotiation of the COC, one of the key questions that pose to the ASEAN countries and China is: Do you have the capacity as well as confidence to manage the crisis and eventually solve the disputes in the South China Sea by yourselves or you must rely on the intervention including military intervention from external powers? 

When you are sure that you have such capacity and confidence to deal with the South China Sea issues, then there is absolutely no need to introduce external ( military )intervention. 

On most occasions, external military intervention only brings chaos and human tragedy as shown in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

The recent frequent and intensive military demonstration by the US in the South China Sea is a real threat to regional peace and security. 

Several years ago Indonesia and Malaysia wisely rejected the Regional Maritime Security Initiative put forward by the US attempting to militarize the Malacca Straits. 

Now it is the time for ASEAN countries and China to seriously consider the issue on how to demilitarize the South China Sea as one of the top priorities when they are negotiating the COC. 

In this regard, some useful elements can be borrowed from the Antarctic Treaty, a most successful example in the world for peace and non-militarization.

It is recalled that in the 10 principles of the first Bandung Conference held in 1955, the Asian and African countries affirmed that the use of arrangements of collective defense to serve any particular interests of the big powers should be abstained and the destiny of the region should be in the hands of the countries in the region. 

Only with such a conviction, the tensions in the South China Sea could be gradually defused and lasting peace and stability could be maintained.

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The writer is Harris professor of international law, University of Central Lancashire, UK. The views expressed are his own.