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Who is "making trouble" in the South China Sea?

On March 1, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a visit to the Philippines just one day after the DPRK-US Hanoi Summit between President Donald Trump and Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. In the Philippines’ capital of Manila, the US Secretary of State made several statements on the South China Sea and US - Philippine relations which attracted much interest of the public opinion and were immediately protested by China. China accused the US of trying to "make trouble" in the South China Sea. What has happened and is the US "making trouble" in the South China Sea?

China's ambition of "monopolizing control of the South China Sea" and risks of its execution

In Chinese leaders’ eyes, the South China Sea is critical to their strategy of expanding China’s influence and making China a world power. Politically speaking, the South China Sea is where China can deploy its "soft border" doctrine and its "Look South" policy, a "vital" way for China to overcome surrounding countries such as India, Russia, Japan and Republic of Korea to expand its influence in the world, a "gateway" for China to get out of the US containment and restraint to become a world power. In economic terms, the South China Sea is abundant in natural resources which can be exploited to make an important contribution to the rapid economic development of the most populous country in the world that is falling into a serious shortage of natural resources, particularly oil. With one of the world’s busiest maritime and air routes through the South China Sea, so "who controls the South China Sea will control economic development in East Asia”. From the military angle, the South China Sea is the entry into the Asian continent for US and Japanese naval forces, which is the passage for warships from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The South China Sea is also home to many important islands with strategic and tactical significance at sea to keep traffics and other activities at sea in control. Islands in the area can be developed into military bases which can serve as a starting point to attack enemies as well as a belt at the frontline to defend the mainland from afar. Therefore, with control over the South China Sea, China will expand its defensive space, pushing the battlefield far away from China’s mainland. More military bases in the islands will allow China to monitor and possibly threaten military operations of Southeast Asian countries, including controlling the US military operations. In addition, controlling the South China Sea also helps China to gather strength of millions of Chinese in Southeast Asian countries, strengthening national cohesion, supporting the unification and recovery of Taiwanese territory.

Beware of China’s actions and attempts to invade the South China Sea

The sovereignty dispute over the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea between Vietnam and China has lasted for 45 years, which is one of the longest disputes between claimants over the same islands. This is also a complicated dispute without any legal or political solution so far, somehow more complicated with repeated tensions and settlements followed by growing flares up since the Chinese side attempts to change the status quo by deliberately changing the form of the islands, expanding long-term occupation in more and more waters in order to gain control of the trade flows in the South China Sea. At the same time, China deliberately seeks to take the Paracel Islands as a naval base for protecting its mainland from far away, or as a springboard to attack its neighboring countries.

China's deep intentions in the forced seizure of the Paracels in 1974

Revisiting the battle of 1974 at the Paracel Islands, it could be seen that China’s action had a deep calculation. Although forced seizure does not create a title of sovereignty over Paracel Islands because it is contrary to international law, China still decided to take action to serve its long-term strategy of becoming a regional power.

Indonesia's protection of its legitimate sovereignty in the South China Sea: Solution and action

Since the early 21st century, China has broadened its ambition to control the South China Sea to the entire sea area. They not only made statements and took actions to exercise sovereignty over the seas of the Paracel and Spratly Islands, Scarborough or Luconia Shoals but also claimed overlapping sovereignty and dispatched fishing boats backed and protected by Chinese maritime surveillance, coast guard, and navy vessels to the area of Indonesia's Natuna in the southern South China Sea. This directly impacts Indonesia's national sovereignty and interests, forces the country to take a number of measures and actions on different fields to curb China's ambition.

The modern creation of China's 'historic rights' claim in the South China Sea

There are several layers of disputes in the South China Sea: disputes over the ownership of islands, disputes over rights in the waters between the islands, disputes over the regional balance of power and disputes about the future of global governance. What makes them difficult to resolve is that many details of the rival claims remain obscure.

China publishes maps without the Paracel and Spratly Islands

The map “Huangchao zhi sheng di yu quan tu” published by China in 1905 clearly shows that China’s territory ends at Hainan Island. The Paracel and Spratly Islands belong to Vietnam.

How China is eyeing and encroaching Indonesia's exclusive economic zone

China's ambition to "monopolize control" of the South China Sea is not only having command over the waters adjacent to Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia... in the South China Sea but also controlling waters thousands of kilometers away from China such as those close to Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. Although Indonesia has been vigilant, reacting fiercely and striving to protect its territorial sovereignty, it seems that their measures are not strong enough to stop China's ambition.

US’s role in China’s invasion of Paracel Islands of Vietnam 45 years ago

Forty five years ago, in Jan 1974, China attacked and occupied the Paracel Islands of Vietnam. The incident took place when Vietnam was still being divided with southern Vietnam under the administration of the Republic of Vietnam headed by Nguyen Van Thieu, a close ally of the United States. The Paracel Islands was under the effective control of Nguyen Van Thieu administration. The question is why the Republic of Vietnam, a close ally of the US fought the Paracel battle alone and lost it to China’s hands. It is necessary to revisit history to learn the lesson about friends and allies.

The modern creation of China's 'historic rights' claim in the South China Sea

There are several layers of disputes in the South China Sea: disputes over the ownership of islands, disputes over rights in the waters between the islands, disputes over the regional balance of power and disputes about the future of global governance. What makes them difficult to resolve is that many details of the rival claims remain obscure.

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