State parties to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea have a lawful and peaceful way to uphold the international rule of law and counter China’s disregard of a 2016 arbitral tribunal’s legally binding ruling on the South China Sea.
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Water Wars: In the South China Sea, Beijing Faces Twin Threats of New U.S. Military Presence and Pushback from an Old Friend
China suffered two major setbacks in the South China Sea this week. First, sparks flew between the PRC and Indonesia when the bungled seizure of a Chinese fishing vessel in Indonesian waters almost led to a direct conflict. Later in the week, the United States and the Philippines announce a new decade-long pact that will allow American troops to rotate between five PH bases, many close to PRC installations in the South China Sea.
A PRC surveillance vessel crusies next to Japan Coast Guard patrol ships near the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands (Photo: Kyodo)
In a symbolic show of force, the United States dispatched “a small armada” to patrol the disputed waters of the South China Sea, according to the Navy Times.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) flag (Photo: Shutterstock.com)
Although the U.S.-ASEAN summit was originally billed as the main story of the week, China stole the show after news broke that the PLA recently deployed anti-aircraft missiles to a contested island in the South China Sea.
This past week was the quietest in terms of breaking news since Water Wars began nearly five months ago—somewhat surprising, given that only last week the USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the Paracel Islands. All signs point to an upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, which will take place February 15-16, as the most likely cause of the relative calm.
On Saturday, the United States Navy conducted its second freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in recent months. This time, the destroyer USS Curtiss Wilbur transited within twelve nautical miles of Triton Island—a PRC-held feature in the Paracels also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spent much of this week in Laos, Cambodia, and China in an effort to pressure Beijing to change course in the South China Sea. Returning to Washington on Wednesday, Secretary Kerry could boast of, at best, mixed results.