The SouthChina SeaHaving it both ways
Mar 9th 2012,2:20 by Banyan
ANINTERESTING and helpful piece by Robert Beckman, a professor of internationallaw at the National University of Singapore, clarifies some of the issuesbehind what has become, for now, the hottest ofthe myriad disputes in the South ChinaSea.
This onepits the Philippines against China. The Philippines has announced that it isgoing to open new maritime blocks off its island of Palawan for oil-and-gasexploration. It claims the area as part of the “exclusive economic zone” (EEZ)attached to the main Philippine archipelago. China has objected, since itclaims the area in question.
It isoften assumed that this is based on China’s mysterious “nine-dashed line” claim, a pieceof historic cartography which China sometimes insists gives it indisputablesovereignty over most of the sea, but whose legal basis seems at bestflimsy.
However,Mr Beckman points out that China also has an unresolvedterritorial claim to the Spratly archipelago (also claimed in its entirety by Taiwan and Vietnam). The Spratlysare mainly tiny rocks and islets, which under the United Nations Convention onthe Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) would be entitled just to “territorial waters”, of12 nautical miles (22km). However, some might be considered habitable, andhence count as “islands”, which would have a full 200-mile EEZ, overlappingwith the Philippines' archipelagic EEZ.
And so, onthis analysis, China does have a legitimate basis for its claim; the area is“in dispute”, and the Philippines would be in the wrong to pursue hydrocarbonexploration unilaterally.
One thingabout this seems odd though. If China follows UNCLOS in this area of the sea,can it ignore it in areas where it has no such claim, just its nine-dashedassertive line? The answer, I suppose, is yes; China can always have it bothways.
MelissiaMarch 9th, 04:48
Of course it can, and it willattempt to do so.
All major powers basically tryand do that.
sprinter3321March 9th, 06:52
I am a resident of Singapore,and my (Singaporean) neighbor told me yesterday that the US military presencein Singapore is a touchy subject. While it did not matter when the US was theglobal hegemon, now that China is competing for dominance in SEAsia, the USpresence in Singapore is putting the country at risk. Presumably, US forces arein Singapore in order to cut China's oil supply (89% of which passes throughthe Malaka Straits) in the event of conflict anywhere in the region (Taiwan,Korea, Japan, Spratleys, Philippines etc). China must be well aware of thisthreat to their energy lifeline.
Ah Beng in reply to sprinter3321March 9th, 15:27
.... HAHAHA what?
I am a (former) resident ofSingapore, also. What exists in Singapore is a regional JAG - a military court- and a refueling and logistics center, not a permanent military base. In fact,since the entirety of the facility at Sembawang is actually a Singaporemilitary base, partially leased by the US, Singapore could kick out the US aseasily as Uzbekistan has done, simply by refusing to renew the lease.
While the US presence may havegeopolitical implications, your speculation on the motives of the United Statesare asinine. Tell me, how does a rented refueling station interdict oil?
okydoky in reply to Ah BengMarch 9th, 22:01
Singapore is much more thanjust a refuelling depot for US forces. The US announced recently that two'littoral assault' ships will be based permanently at Singapore. There are onlytwo bases in SEASia which have the facilities to dock and servicenuclear-powered US aircraft carriers: Japan and Singapore. The only possiblereason for this concentration of US forces in Singapore is to interdict tradethrough the Malacca Straits. All of this is available on globalsecurity.org
Fish Eagle in reply to sprinter3321March 10th, 01:36
It is reasonable to assume weAmericans are in Singapore for the same reason the British were in Singapore ahundred years ago: to participate in (and control) east-west trade. The factthe trade now includes China's oil is an added benefit, given our new focus onsecurity in the South China Sea.
tocharian in reply to sprinter3321March 10th, 07:46
No worries here. Singaporewill very soon become a "vassal state" of "Greater China".It's part of the string of pearls strategy! Duh
PL123 in reply to tocharianMarch 10th, 12:14
Now Singapore is moreintergrated to Greater China's economy, they don't want to sink with a dyingempire.
viethong in reply to PL123March 11th, 00:50
I may show why peopl nowtalking US in sing: paper straits time had artical week before by ISEAS personRichardson, say 85 percen china oil come thru sing strait (not 89 like sayhere). Same day paper artical say 2 new americ ship come to sing, an americ wantnow look chine sea. sing peopl connecvt article togeter
Ex Patriot in reply to tocharianMarch 11th, 04:13
Singapore's been a vassalstate of China's for a very long time.
Dogsi in reply to sprinter3321March 16th, 04:45
Prior US sailor here. Theprimary reason why America is in the Malaka Straights is to secure trade, notto prevent it. There are hundreds of acts of piracy every year in that region.US destroyers, frigates, etc. are constantly in the region trying to keep theshipping lanes open and safe.
As for why America constantlyuses Singapore as a base of operations, that is because it has fairly advancedfacilities, is fairly politically neutral, and it is well located in theregion. Whether we are heading West towards the Indian ocean or the PersianGulf, South, towards Australia, or returning from these areas and heading Northtowards Hong Kong, S. Korea, and Japan, Singapore is an easily accessed port.
Stop the fear mongering.America is not attempting to cut off China's oil supplies. There will be no warbetween America and China. China and America both know that it will be decadesbefore China has any hope of defeating America out side of its own borders.
new paradigm426 in reply to DogsiMarch 16th, 06:06
"it will be decadesbefore China has any hope of defeating America out side of its ownborders"
So what happened in Vietnam?The US lost against (the Northern half) of a developing country. The mostpowerful country on earth beaten by (half) of one of the weakest.
Few doubt the US would win anaval engagement, but a land war is a different story. This is the mistake theBritish made: they assumed the Japs would come by sea, but they came down theMalay Peninsula instead. On bicycles. The Chinese will do the same, and theresult will be the same. The US is no match for China in a land war, the USelectorate will not tolerate hundreds of thousand of casualties in defence ofplace Americans can't even find on a map.
Singapore would be safer ifthe US were to pull out of Singapore altogether. Then Singapore can make it'sown agreements with China, based on the new reality. This way, armed conflictcan be prevented.
Dogsi in reply to new paradigm426March 16th, 08:46
Your analogy is fallacious.Singapore is not part of China but is far from China's borders. Do you believethe Chinese are more willing to sacrifice lives in a war of aggression thanAmericans would be in a war to defend an ally? Do you believe that China's neighborswould sit ideally by while China rolled over other countries to invadeSingapore? Do you believe China has the logistics to wage war over a thousandmiles from its borders with American naval dominance?
China is not a threat toSingapore. Even if it was, it would not be a threat to Singapore with Americabacking it.
Now as your other assertion.America would trounce China in a land war. It is true that China's populationis larger than America's. However, the gap is not as drastic as it would be ifyou compared China to the UK, Germany, etc. America is about 1/4 the populationof China. However, it has far more resources, military technology, politicalallies, etc.
In the Vietnam war, Americatrounced the Vietnamese military. Approximately 3,000,000 Vietnamese diedduring that war. Approximately 60,000 Americans died in that war. For every 1American that died, Vietnam lost 50.
In the first gulf war againstIraq, America fought a military that was technologically more advanced and farmore experienced than China. America killed the Iraqi's at about an 90 to 1ratio.
There is a key difference withall of these wars in that America was fighting a war outside of our borders. Wewere fighting people defending their homeland from a hostile invader. People fightingto defend their home are far more fanatical than people fighting to promote theselfish desires of their own government.
Yes, an American invasion ofmainland China would be disastrous. I have no doubt that the US military couldroll over the Chinese military and seize control of any place in China.However, it would be a bloody and never ending affair. It would cost Americahundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars and would end inAmerica eventually cutting our losses and bailing.
Finally, no, Singapore issafer with America. America is by far the strongest military power in theworld. America has showed no indications that it wishes to annex anything.America poses absolutely no risk to Singapore. China on the other hand hasshown increased belligerence with its neighbors. It has been increasinglyconfrontational with Vietnam, Japan, RP, etc.
China has not had a"peaceful rise" out of their benign nature but because they lack thepower to engage and win a conflict against American will. They know that anywar it fights would give the US government the justification that they wouldlove to have to military humiliate China. This is why China rattles its sabersat Taiwan, 1 or 2 US battle groups show up, and China backs down.
The Chinese and Americangovernments both know this. You acting like this is not the case is effectivelystating you are more knowledgeable on the topic than both the US and theChinese governments.