Why did it take so long before anyone realised the plane was missing?
It didn’t. Malaysia’s acting transport minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, has confirmed that the plane ceased communicating with ground control about 40 minutes into its flight to Beijing, but this information was not made public for many hours. Malaysia has faced accusations of not sharing all of its information or suspicions about the plane’s final movements. It, however, says it would be irresponsible to narrow the focus of the search until there is firm evidence of the plane’s flight path. Malaysia’s reluctance to go public with the news that one of its planes had vanished is perhaps understandable. The disappearance of the Boeing 777 – one of the safest commercial jets in service – is one of the most baffling in aviation history. It is extremely rare for a modern passenger aircraft to disappear once it has reached cruising altitude.
Why did no one see the plane veering so far off course?
They did. The New York Times, quoting American officials and others close to the investigation, said radar signals recorded by the Malaysian military appeared to show the airliner climbing to 45,000ft, higher than a Boeing 777′s approved limit, soon after its disappearance from civilian radar, then making a sharp turn to the west. The radar tracking then shows the plane descending unevenly to 23,000ft, below normal cruising levels, before climbing again and flying north-west towards the Indian Ocean. What the military did with this information is not known.
Why this flight?
Here we enter the realm of wild speculation: the internet is awash with theories. It could be that Malaysia was geographically convenient. Some suggest that, if it is a hijack, it is probably the work of Uighur separatists in Xinjiang, western China, or Islamic terrorists. On 1 March attackers armed with knives killed at least 29 people and injured more than 100 in Kunming station in southern China. Chinese authorities and state media were quick to describe this as a terror attack by Uighurs in their “jihad”. Hijacking a plane would be by far their most spectacular achievement. The plane had fuel to get as far north as Kazakhstan, according to some experts, which means it could have been flown to Pakistan or Afghanistan. However, given that the jet was not detected by these two militarised countries, this seems unlikely. Some say a flight from Malaysia to China was a softer target than, say, a transatlantic flight, but there is little evidence for this. There are, say pilots, many softer targets.
Why are the pilots’ homes being searched only now?
This does raise questions about Malaysia’s handling of the situation. The lengthy delay appears to bolster criticism that Malaysia has been ineffective in this crisis. Numerous false sightings of wreckage may have convinced the authorities that they were dealing with a disaster, not terrorism, which could explain why they did not immediately search the men’s homes.
Why did Vietnam not raise the alarm?
Once an aircraft is more than 150 miles out to sea, radar coverage fades and crews keep in touch with air traffic control and other aircraft by high-frequency radio. About 40 minutes in, the flight was still the “property” of Malaysian air traffic control, which we know made contact with the plane just minutes before it disappeared. All seemed fine as the pilot reported “all right, good night”. This last verbal communication came at the boundary between Malaysian and Vietnamese airspace. Malaysian air traffic control told the pilots the flight was being passed to Ho Chi Minh control. The Vietnamese authorities may never have assumed responsibility for the plane as it never entered their airspace. This would be consistent with where the search has now moved to.
How do investigators know the communications systems were shut off and did not just go wrong?
This is based on information from the Malaysian authorities who, admittedly, have given contradictory reports. The prime minister, Najib Razak, said investigators now had a “high degree of certainty” that one of the plane’s communications systems, the aircraft and communications addressing and reporting system (Acars), was disabled before the aircraft reached the east coast of Malaysia. Shortly afterwards, someone on board switched off the aircraft’s transponder, which communicates with civilian air traffic control.
How do we know the plane flew on after the transponder was switched off?
Routine, automated signals from the aircraft – known as electronic handshakes or pings – registered on the Inmarsat satellite network. MH370′s last ping suggested it was in one of two flight corridors: one between Thailand and Kazakhstan, and another between Indonesia and the southern Indian Ocean. The last confirmed communication was made at 08:11, which would indicate that the Boeing continued flying for nearly seven hours after contact was lost. As a result, its location will be extremely difficult to pinpoint quickly. Without further radar/satellite/eye-witness testimony, say experts, it is very much like looking for a needle in a haystack. A source familiar with US assessments of the Inmarsat satellite pings said it appeared the plane turned south over the Indian Ocean, where it would presumably have run out of fuel and crashed into the sea.
China is aloud about its arrogant attitude as the neighbourhood bully, with regards to the recent steps taken by the Philippines to resolve at international arbitration on the controversy arisen by the world’s largest communist state’s imaginary and unsubstantiated claims of the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’.
Financial Times story:
Last updated: March 31, 2014 7:03 am
China rejects Philippines case on ‘nine-dash’ line
By Demetri Sevastopulo in Hong Kong and Roel Landingin in Manila
China has criticised the Philippines for forging ahead with an unprecedented international arbitration claim against Beijing over contested waters in the South China Sea.
Manila on Sunday submitted a pleading to the body that arbitrates maritime disputes under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). The so-called “memorial” urges the tribunal to invalidate the “nine-dash line” that China includes on maps to justify its claim to almost the entire South China Sea.
Beijing responded to the move by calling on the Philippines to engage in direct talks over the disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
“No matter how the Philippine memorial is packaged, the direct cause of the dispute between China and the Philippines is the latter’s illegal occupation of some of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea,” said the Chinese foreign ministry.
The Philippines and China are both signatories to Unclos, which spells out the maritime rights of states, and the means for settling disputes over overlapping sea claims. But China has refused to participate in the case, which will be heard by a five-judge tribunal in The Hague, saying it was “unilaterally initiated” by Manila.
The Chinese foreign ministry said the dispute with the Philippines was “excluded from arbitration” because of a declaration made by China when it ratified Unclos in 2006.
“China’s rejection of the Philippines’ submission for arbitration is solidly based on international law, and China’s lawful rights as a party to Unclos should be truly respected.”
China is involved in maritime disputes with several neighbours, but the Philippines and Japan have been the most aggressive in challenging its claims. In February, Benigno Aquino, the Philippines president, compared China’s increasingly assertive stance in the South China Sea to Hitler’s push for Czechoslovakian land in 1938.
The Sino-Filipino dispute comes as China and the US vie for power in the Pacific. China is rapidly expanding its maritime capabilities as the US continues its “pivot” to Asia. Ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines in April, Washington and Manila are trying to finalise a deal that would allow the US to base ships and troops in the southeast Asian nation on a rotational basis.
In announcing the submission of the almost 4,000-page memorial, Albert Del Rosario, the Philippines foreign secretary, said it was unclear how China would respond.
Asia maritime tensions
Latest news and comment on the escalating disputes over islands and territorial waters between China and its neighbours
“Ordinarily, the next step in an arbitration of this nature would be the filing of a counter-memorial by the other party,” said Mr Del Rosario. “However, it is currently unknown whether China will appear in the case, or whether it will continue its present policy of abstaining from the proceedings.”
Manila argues that the tribunal should invalidate the “nine-dash line” because it stretches to just 30-50 miles from the Philippines, cutting off the southeast Asian country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, in violation of Unclos. Manila says it would lose 80 per cent of its EEZ in waters off the western Philippines, including areas containing huge oil and gas deposits, if it accepted the line.
The Philippines is also trying to stop China from occupying or blocking access by Philippine boats and fishermen to eight so-called “submerged features” that lie within its EEZ, including Scarborough Shoal where Chinese and Philippine maritime vessels figured in a two-month stand-off in the middle of 2012.
Manila says the shoal, a rich fishing ground that has in effect been controlled by China since the Philippines withdrew its ships to end the impasse, is located about 120 miles west of the Philippines coast but lies more than 350 miles from China.
No matter how the Philippine memorial is packaged, the direct cause of the dispute between China and the Philippines is the latter’s illegal occupation of some of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea
- China foreign ministry
Antonio Carpio, a Philippines supreme court judge, said Manila is not asking the tribunal to determine the ownership of the disputed rocks, shoals or reefs, but only to clarify if the mostly submerged features are entitled to their own maritime zones.
“The Philippines is asking the tribunal if China’s nine-dashed lines can negate the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone as guaranteed under Unclos,” he said in a speech in February. “The Philippines is also asking the tribunal if certain rocks above water at high tide, like Scarborough Shoal, generate a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone or only a 12-nautical mile territorial sea.”
The move to file a “memorial” paves the way for formal deliberations by the tribunal on whether it has jurisdiction and on the substantive issues. It marks the first time that China’s “nine-dash line” will be subjected to intense international scrutiny by some of the world’s foremost international law experts.
In February, the Philippines welcomed the move by the US to weigh in on the “nine-dash” line for the first time. Danny Russel, the top US diplomat for east Asia, told the US Congress that “the international community would welcome China to clarify or adjust its ‘nine-dash’ line claim to bring it in accordance with the international law of the sea”.
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China believes the international tribute to arbitrate these multiple claims, which the Philipines are taking the task to resolve, have ‘limited jurisprudence to decide’. China wanted bilateral talks exclusively with each of the South East Asian nations having the various multiple claims within the imaginary ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ although Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines are resolved towards a multi-lateral dialogues with claimants.
On Sunday, the Philippines submitted to the United Nations for the arbitration.
The Wall Street Journal story.
Philippines Seeks Arbitration at U.N. Over China’s Claims in South China Sea
Contested Waters Carry Huge Volume of World Trade
By JAMES HOOKWAY CONNECT
Updated March 30, 2014 11:31 a.m. ET
The Sierra Madre has Philippine troops deployed on board and is anchored off Second Thomas Shoal. Associated Press/Bullit Marquez
The Philippines filed an arbitration case Sunday with the United Nations over China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, raising the ante in a long-running dispute over who owns what in the strategic, energy-rich waters.
Manila has been preparing for months to file its challenge to China’s claim to control everything within a broad expanse of the sea delineated by its so-called “nine-dash line.” The Philippines’ submission is nearly 4,000 pages long, includes more than 40 maps and is aimed at countering Beijing’s argument that controlling mostly submerged features such as reefs or shoals provides China with sovereignty over the sea, including some 80% of the Philippines’ U.N.-declared exclusive economic zone.
The contested waters include areas potentially rich in oil and gas, as well as rich fishing waters such as Scarborough Shoal, where Philippine and Chinese vessels were locked in a standoff for nearly two months in 2012.
China so far has abstained from the proceedings in the matter, which the Philippines first raised in January under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Now that the case for arbitration has been filed, the UN tribunal will decide on what steps are to be taken next.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Sunday that seeking arbitration “is about defending what is legitimately ours” and securing a “just and durable solution grounded on International Law.”
China’s foreign ministry dismissed the arbitration filing in a statement posted on its website Sunday night, reiterating its position that it considers the dispute a bilateral matter to be resolved through direct negotiations. “Regardless of how the Philippines packages its complaint, the direct cause of the dispute is illegal occupation of reefs in the South China Sea on the part of the Philippines,” it said.
The Philippines’ challenge comes as Manila engages in another protracted cat-and-mouse game to evade Chinese ships apparently attempting to blockade one of the Philippines’ few outposts in the region: a rusting hulk marooned on Second Thomas Shoal.
A Philippine ship managed Saturday to slip past a Chinese vessel to resupply a small contingent of Filipino soldiers aboard the World War II-era Sierra Madre, which was steered onto Second Thomas Shoal in 1999. The wreck is one of the Philippines’ few visible claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea, something of a symbolic marker in efforts to withstand China’s growing ambitions.
In recent weeks China has attempted to stop Philippine forces from resupplying the wreck, forcing the Philippines to conduct air drops. Journalists from the Associated Press and other news organizations were aboard the Philippine supply vessel and reported hearing a Chinese coast guard ship warning it to stay away by radio. The Philippine ship, carrying some 10 tons of food and water, slipped away after heading into shallower waters where the Chinese vessel couldn’t follow.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday that “China will absolutely not allow the Philippines to occupy” Second Thomas Shoal.
The Philippine legal challenge to China’s claims is perhaps a more significant display of resistance.
The waters, which carry around half of the world’s trade, are also claimed in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan and tensions have led to a series of confrontations in past decades. Any decision by the U.N. could bear on how the overlapping territorial claims are ultimately resolved and could stir tensions between China and the U.S.
The Obama administration infuriated Beijing in 2010 when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the free navigation of the South China Sea as being in America’s “national interest.”
China has since attempted to step up control, among other things dispatching nominally civilian coast guard vessels into disputed waters. Beijing argues each territorial dispute should be resolved on a bilateral basis. Washington and the Association of Southeast Asian want a multilateral, rules-based approach.
Since 1990a\s China illegally occupied Scarborough Shoals, which is part of the Philippines’ EEZ as per outlined by United Nations Convention Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). Historically, Scarborough Shoals are part of the Philippines from the Treaty of Washington.
The 1900 Treaty of Washington provided that any and all islands belonging to the Philippines archipelago, lying outside the lines described in Article III of the Treaty of Paris, were also ceded to the United States. This included Scarborough Shoal, which is outside the Treaty of Paris treaty lines. In effect, the Treaty of Washington amended the Treaty of Paris, so that the islands ceded by Spain to the U.S. included islands within and outside the Treaty of Paris treaty lines, so long as Spain had title or claim of title to the islands.
The Philippine’s bilateral dispute with China over the shoal began on 30 April 1997 when the Philippines naval ships were prevented by Chinese boats from approaching the shoal. On 5 June 1997, Domingo Siazon, who was then the Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs, testified in front of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate that the Shoal was “A new issue on overlapping claims between the Philippines and China”.
In 2009, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo enacted the Philippine Baselines Law of 2009 (RA 9522). The new law classified the Kalayaan Island Group and the Scarborough Shoal as a regime of islands under the Republic of the Philippines.
The Phillippines armed forces had to dodge the China’s PLA Navy (PLAN) blockade of Scarborough Shoals to reach Second Thomas Shoal.
Philippine ship dodges China blockade to reach South China Sea outpost
BY ERIK DE CASTRO AND ROLI NG
SECOND THOMAS SHOAL, South China Sea Mon Mar 31, 2014 4:37am EDT
CREDIT: REUTERS/ERIK DE CASTRO
SECOND THOMAS SHOAL, South China Sea (Reuters) -The Philippine government vessel made a dash for shallow waters around the disputed reef in the South China Sea, evading two Chinese coastguard ships trying to block its path to deliver food, water and fresh troops to a military outpost on the shoal.
The cat-and-mouse encounter on Saturday, witnessed by Reuters and other media invited onboard the Philippine ship, offered a rare glimpse into the tensions playing out routinely in waters that are one of the region’s biggest flashpoints.
It’s also a reminder of how assertive China has become in pressing its claims to disputed territory far from its mainland.
“If we didn’t change direction, if we didn’t change course, then we would have collided with them,” Ferdinand Gato, captain of the Philippine vessel, a civilian craft, told Reuters after his boat had anchored on the Second Thomas Shoal under a hot sun.
The outpost is a huge, rusting World War Two transport vessel that the Philippine navy intentionally ran aground in 1999 to mark its claim to the reef.
There, around eight Filipino soldiers live for three months at a time in harsh conditions on a reef that Manila says is within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China, which claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, says the shoal is part of its territory.
Things were going smoothly for the Philippine ship until it was spotted by a Chinese coastguard ship about an hour away from the Second Thomas Shoal. The Chinese boat picked up speed to come near the left of the white Philippine ship, honking its horn at least three times.
The Chinese ship slowed down after a few minutes, but then a bigger coastguard vessel emerged, moving fast to cut the path of the Philippine boat.
The Chinese sent a radio message to the Filipinos, saying they were entering Chinese territory.
“We order you to stop immediately, stop all illegal activities and leave,” said the radio message, delivered in English. Gato replied that his mission was to deliver provisions to Philippine troops stationed in the area.
Philippine troops wearing civilian clothes and journalists then flashed “V” for the peace sign at the Chinese.
WATCHED FROM THE SKY
Instead of stopping or reversing, the Philippine vessel picked up speed and eventually maneuvered away from the Chinese, entering waters that were too shallow for the bigger coastguard ships.
A U.S. navy plane, a Philippine military aircraft and a Chinese plane, all visible from their markings, flew above the ships at different intervals.
Filipino troops on the civilian vessel clapped as they came within a few meters of the marooned transport ship, the BRP Sierra Madre. Supplies of food and water were then hauled up to troops onboard.
Later, the eight soldiers due to be relieved put on military fatigues for a daily ceremony to lower the Philippine flag at dusk.
They had been scheduled to go home three weeks ago but Chinese ships blocked two Philippine supply vessels from reaching them on March 9, a move protested by Manila and which the United States described as “provocative”. The Philippines resorted to air dropping food and water instead.
“What we want to accomplish is for this area to remain ours. This is the one thing that we are guarding here,” said sergeant Jerry Fuentes, a Philippine marine set to deploy on the BRP Sierra Madre.
China’s Foreign Ministry said late on Saturday that the action by the Philippines would not change the reality of China’s sovereignty over the shoal, which Beijing calls Ren’ai reef.
“China will never tolerate the Philippines’ occupation of the Ren’ai reef in any form,” it said.
China displays its claims to the South China Sea on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
The ships of its recently unified coastguard are a fixture around the disputed waters. While they don’t have the weaponry of military vessels, thus reducing the risk a confrontation could get out of control, they still represent a potent show of sovereignty.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters.
Raising the stakes over the South China Sea, the Philippines filed a case against China on Sunday at an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, subjecting Beijing to international legal scrutiny over the waters for the first time.
Manila is seeking a ruling at the Permanent Court of Arbitration to confirm its right to exploit the waters in its EEZ as allowed under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), its team of U.S. and British lawyers have said.
China reiterated on Sunday that it would not accept international arbitration, saying the only way to resolve the dispute was through bilateral negotiations.
“Regardless of how the Philippines packages its lawsuit, the direct cause of the dispute between China and the Philippines is the Philippines’ illegal occupation of part of the islands in the South China Sea,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.
The U.S. State Department said all countries should respect the right of any state to use dispute resolution mechanisms under the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Regardless of the results of this arbitration proceeding, we call on all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that are escalatory and destabilizing,” spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told a news conference in Manila on Sunday that Manila does not expect the tribunal to reach a decision before the end of 2015.
“The question of, what if the Philippines gets a favorable ruling? The Philippines has always taken the position that a favorable ruling is a ruling that China, as a member of the community of nations, is bound legally to accept and to implement,” government lawyer Francis Jardeleza said.
(This story was refiled to fix typo in lawyer’s name in final paragraph)
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Writing by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Dean Yates)
Going to the United Nations and getting an international tribunal to resolve issues such as the Scarborough Shoals is the Phillipines’ initiative to “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. It expected to be raised in the informal ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting with the United States in Hawaii, starting tomorrow.
Never the less, the increasingly growing China’s PLAN aggressive maneuvres (poorly being masquaraded as “Training and exercises”) within the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ is a test deeply wedging a division between its seemingly redefined ‘Panda diplomacy ‘ trying to balance between the position and role as the second largest world economy and consumer and an upcoming Super Power and /or ‘neighbourhood notorious big bully’.
Lessons from Russia’s decisive move in Crimea amidst international cries is something that ASEAN have to be really concern about.
The Diplomat article:
Crimea and South China Sea Diplomacy
Russia’s big move shows both the limits and importance of diplomacy in territorial disputes.
By Sophie Boisseau du Rocher & Bruno Hellendorff
April 01, 2014
On March 18, China and ASEAN gathered in Singapore to pursue consultations on a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea, alongside talks on the implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC). The gathering came at a time of rising preoccupation over a perceived creeping assertiveness by China in pursuing its maritime claims. Just one week before, Manila and Beijing experienced another diplomatic row, after Chinese Coast Guard vessels barred the resupply of Philippine marines based in the Spratly Islands.
In broader terms, several high-profile developments have hinted that China is becoming more inclined to consider the threat and use of force as its preferred vehicle for influence in the South China Sea. China’s considerable maritime build-up has been accompanied by the merging of its maritime agencies into a unified Coast Guard unit, the publication of maps with a 10-dash line covering Chinese claims in the South China Sea, and even the announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, covering the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. All have contributed to turning the South China Sea into “Asia’s cauldron,” as one renowned expert titled his last book. A widely circulated photograph picturing Chinese sailors forming the slogan “The Chinese dream, the dream of a strong military” on the deck of the Liaoning did nothing to help mitigate nervousness over Chinese aims and strategy in the region.
The timing of these China-ASEAN discussions coincided with rising tensions in Eastern Europe around the fate of Crimea. In recent days, neither international law nor European pressure have proved of much value in the face of Russian resolve. Illegal in many respects, the Crimean referendum was still deemed valid in Moscow, which subsequently annexed the region. The Ukrainian military bases in Crimea were rapidly overwhelmed by pro-Russian forces as the last vestiges of political control from Kiev were swept aside, making a return to status quo ante increasingly remote. Russia clearly has the upper hand in Crimea. It successfully promoted its interests through a combination of intimidation and crawling assertiveness while answering European and American criticisms by pointing to Western interventions in Kosovo and Libya. The larger consequences of this strategy for Euro-Russian relations and stability in Eastern Europe remain unclear. However, this demonstration of how, in certain situations, force prevails over diplomacy, a notion long fought by the European Union, has opened a new Pandora’s box.
Certainly, Russia’s bid to bend international norms in its favor through the use of force, and Western reactions to it are being watched with great interest, and probably some trepidation, in Beijing and Southeast Asia. Whether the Crimea issue will have influence in Southeast Asia, in the context of competing territorial claims, is far from clear. However, the Crimean and South China Sea issues have several elements in common. One of the most prominent is the complexity of managing—let alone solving—territorial disputes, especially when dealing with an evolving power. Another is that both cases stress the necessity but limited efficacy of diplomacy.
Confronted with a complex and contradictory China, Southeast Asian countries may derive a sense of urgency from developments in the Crimea. For ASEAN and its members, the crucial question may well be whether they can succeed in convincing China of the long-term benefits of diplomacy over force and fait accompli. It may well be ASEAN’s last chance: Negotiations began 22 years ago, in 1992, and have yet to produce convincing results for either party. If the 2002 Declaration reaffirmed a commitment to international law and freedom of navigation, there has been obvious evidence of unilateralism by certain parties, be they the Filipino government, the Chinese military or even the Hainan authorities. The case may be pressed further in light of the Crimea events: should a Code of Conduct be effectively agreed, with—as China made clear—no deadline for its actual implementation, will it suffice to curtail national frustration from any party, limit tensions and therefore avoid escalation?
Diplomacy is important. It is the channel through which the different stakeholders can showcase and explain their diverging perceptions and interests, communicate, negotiate, and ultimately create a path to de-escalation and stabilization for future common benefit. But it could also prove limited in that it is largely dependent on power configurations and functions under a series of conventions and norms that can either facilitate or constrain discussions. In the Crimean and South China Sea cases, diplomacy is largely, yet not exclusively, undertaken under the particular framework of one international institution (the EU or ASEAN) engaging one great power (Russia or China). Facilitating discussions is the fact that in both situations, stakeholders are connected through a series of strong economic, political and institutional interests. The bad news is that these networks of interests look rather fragile when history becomes a self-asserted, and emotional, argument. Moreover, internal divisions within both the EU and ASEAN have the consequence of blurring the common vision that their members may seek to promote, weakening their negotiating position and constraining the options available to their diplomats. In both cases, the basic worry for the EU and ASEAN alike is to come up with a compelling response to political and military resolve, with international law and negotiations offering little assistance.
The Singapore round of consultations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea produced no notable progress. That is not much of a surprise to experts already of the opinion that the very process is merely cosmetic and deserving of little attention, arguing that China will not give way on what it considers its national and sovereign territory. Other authors have explained that Chinese diplomats are content with the DoC, and will not push for quick progress on a CoC as the latter would inevitably hurt the national interest. Such speculation and doubt over the scope and effectiveness of the negotiations did not alter ASEAN’s official line: sanctions do not help; consultations are always better. Will the future prove that correct? It appears that ASEAN’s bet is to prove that China sees an interest in these talks and would gain in following certain rules not just in terms of image and status but also in promoting its views and “dream” through an ASEAN platform.
Before the recent events in Crimea, ASEAN’s diplomacy was considered adequate by most stakeholders—with the possible exception of the Philippines, which nonetheless ceaselessly appealed to the bloc for help. All claimant countries and their neighbors found an interest in pursuing dual-track negotiations with China, bilateral and multilateral, the latter stage mainly serving, via ASEAN, communication purposes. But now may be the time to consider adding more substance to the discussions, and more glue to the Southeast Asian claimants.
The Crimea is far from the South China Sea, and the two contexts certainly differ in many respects. But Russia’s bold move has shown that resorting to international law to contain a great power’s resolve is not always effective. Even in Moscow, few would disagree, pointing to the invasion of Libya or that of Iraq as counterexamples. Whether the events of the Crimea provide lessons to Chinese and ASEAN diplomats is unknown, but they have made a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea an urgent diplomatic imperative. Success would showcase China’s “peaceful rise” as it would ASEAN’s diplomatic capacity. The efforts of both partners to create stability and security would also be welcome news to a heavily challenged international community.
Bruno Hellendorff is a Research Fellow and Dr. Sophie Boisseau du Rocher is an Associate Researcher at the Group for Research and Information on Peace and Security, Brussels.
Crimea provided Beijing with fresh motivation for a PLA solution to protect China’s interests within their imaginary ‘Nine-Dash-Line’.
China’s arrogance and self-preservation greed growingly is worrying. Especially when she refuse to respect the United Nations and UNCLOS, citing preference for dialogue as the ‘diplomatic drama’ where as the choice of action all along was to use deploy military force and impose duress onto others.
These are valuable lessons that should be learned, from the progression of China’s ‘tweaked’ foreign policy and attitude towards the nations around the region, beginning from the invasion of the Paracels exactly forty years ago.